Eat By Numbers: Bandolero

When you dine out, you might think about the ingredients that go into your food, but you probably don’t think about all the numbers that make your meal happen. Restaurants are filled with interesting figures that might not be apparent when you bite into an enticing entrée or take a sip of a signature cocktail, but they’re all around you.

This week we take a virtual trip south of the border to Mike Isabella’s recently opened modern Mexican restaurant Bandolero. While we’re down there, we find out how many margaritas get guzzled, the number of handmade tortillas the kitchen turns out, and how often the waitstaff get asked if Isabella is available for a picture.


Seats in the restaurant: 172

Varieties of tequila and mescal: 58

Types of margarita: Seven, including El Mata Amigos (The Friend Killer)

Different beers available: 10

Number of those brews that are Mexican: Seven

Margaritas sold last week: 2,454

Types of tacos: Eight, including a suckling pig with apple and habanero mustard and an adobo spiced octopus with cucumber relish

Get the rest of the numbers by clicking over to CityEats’ Plate blog now.

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Parker.


Sneak Peek: Mike Isabella’s Bandolero Pops Up In Cleveland Park

Mike Isabella can’t sit still. His forthcoming Mexican restaurant, Bandolero, opens in Georgetown early this spring, but he wants to give diners a chance to get an advance screening. So he’s doing a pop-up version of the tacos ‘n’ tequila loving concept in Cleveland Park’s Tackle Box.

I got a chance to get a sneak peek, along with talented CityEats shutterbug Elizabeth Parker. Though Isabella and his crew are only temporary guests in the space, they make it feel like their own. Sketches of bull skulls are scattered across the walls and a soundtrack of alt-rock and hip-hop blasts through the room.

Our evening begins with a basket of tortilla chips and featherlight chicharrones – known on this side of the border as pork rinds – which make perfect scoops for guacamole studded with hearty chunks of avocado. I also dip them into the Maya-inspired sikil pak made with ground up roasted pumpkin seeds, then dappled with a shower of sesame seeds and bits of orange.

For my second course, I’m told to choose any three dishes from four categories: Taquitos, Soups & Salads, Tacos, and Traditional. I wasn’t able to make up my mind though, so chef Isabella was kind enough to let me pick out a few extras.

Finish reading this post and see the rest of Elizabeth Parker’s amazing photos over on CityEats’ Plate blog now.

Photos courtesy of the tremendously talented Elizabeth Parker.


5 Minutes With… Graffiato’s Mike Isabella tackling tats, condiments and Bon Jovi vs. Bruce Springsteen

Before Mike Isabella competed on Top Chef in 2009, he was already a hometown hero. As the executive chef at José Andrés’ Mediterranean mecca Zaytinya, he helped the restaurant become one of Washington, D.C.’s trendiest and tastiest dining hotspots. However, the irrepressible New Jersey-born chef was bound for solo success. Shortly after being the runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars, Isabella opened his first restaurant, Graffiato. Combining the flavors of his Italian heritage with those culled from a childhood spent growing up in the Garden State, the eatery was an instant hit. Creative pizzas like the chef’s now-signature Jersey Shore (squiggles of fried calamari zigzagged with cherry pepper aioli and a base of melted provolone) are offered alongside seasonally inspired small plates, housemade charcuterie and pastas.

This is just the beginning, though. This spring Isabella will draw on his memories of working for Jose Garces early in his career when he opens the Mexican small plates concept Bandolero in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. And this fall he will publish his first cookbook, Flavors from a Jersey Italian. In between cooking, writing and overseeing construction, Isabella took five minutes to sit down to talk about his tats, inspirations and favorite condiment. He also weighed in a longtime debate down at the shore: Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen?

Find out his answers by clicking over to Plate‘s website now.