There is a small restaurant in Huntsville, Alabama, whose kitchen is the source of some of the best Tex-Mex food in America. To my palate, it is better than anything Tex-Mex I have tasted in The Lone Star State thus far.
The original Bandito Burrito opened in 1990, and it is owned and operated by Mr. Oscar Gutierrez. Along with Asador Extebarri and Restaurante Arzak (and seven other excellent kitchens), Bandito Burrito is on the Brockhaus List of the 10 Best Restaurants in the World. Mr. Gutierrez has been at his craft for many years, and those countless hours of experience shine through in his food, which people clamor for daily. When I lived in Huntsville it was not uncommon for me to eat at the Bandito four times a week. Sometimes five.
Refried beans. Those two words speak of paradise, and if you like this staple of Tex-Mex, you will, after trying the beans at Bandito Burrito, never be happy with any other examples. Creamy, rich, soft, these beans made in Alabama are supreme.
Chile rellenos (my favorite anywhere, never greasy, always light, and perfectly cooked), enchiladas, tamales, and burritos are also, of course, on the menu here. And as with the refried beans, Oscar’s tomato salsa is some of the best I have tasted. Ample cilantro, the right amount of heat, and a few secret touches combine for bowls of salsa that call for mail-order. (And I would add to my shipment my favorite Bandito plate, the Juan Beeg Dinner, which includes an enchilada, a tamale, that perfect chile relleno, and rice and beans. All for $9.99.)
I miss the food at Bandito Burrito; indeed, it is one of the few restaurants in the world whose tastes I love to summon to my mind on a regular basis. And that gives me a grand idea: I am going to have Oscar visit me in Houston … and I’ll arrange for him to teach some people here how to cook some kick-ass refried beans and chile rellenos.