by Michael Abbey
I had a chat with a very frank and enthusiastic co-owner of Banditos named Jamie McConnell. His partners are Gregg McCabe, Matt Loudon and Steve Halucha. Between the four of them, they also own Prohibition House on Somerset Street and are separately involved in Crazy Horse, Hooleys and a few other ventures. What struck me right from the start was that this quartet of locals enjoyed catering to a wide range of clientele with hearty sustenance at reasonable prices. They opened in early July of this year and are pleased with the uptake so far.
Banditos’s fare is Southern California street food. McConnell described it as “simple ingredients, simple food, well-priced. Good flavours out of simple products. Our house beer is five bucks. We seem to have a nice relaxed restaurant community developing. We have MGD on tap with Pilsners, nothing too crazy,” McConnell was proud to divulge. Their $5 beer is from Molson, a spinoff from one of their major labels.
The interior of the establishment is very “nouveau” with lots of finished wood, granite, not to mention a wall of spigots capable of gushing whatever their clientele desires. An ample patio with a living room sits out front bordering the five- or six-car parking lot. The decor is simple yet stunning. In looks, it did not quite resemble the Korova Milk Bar from A Clockwork Orange, but it made me feel I was somewhere special. The long wooden stand-up tables have swingout seats, allowing clients to pack more into less space. The partners are looking at some awnings for the patio to allow customers to quaff a few and devour the food throughout our recently departed 35º weather of the summer season.
McConnell was born in Australia and has a background in the restaurant business. He arrived in Ottawa around the millennium. His early experience in the service industry includes Mexi’s at Dow’s Lake.
The Glebe was a natural location for the Banditos owners, a sentiment that echoes what I hear from most merchants I meet. They’d been poking around looking for a location for some time. McConnell’s first stop when he arrived in Ottawa was on Clemow. “The Glebe is changing, the clientele is changing and there’s a lot of young people.” The momentum of the summer business has accelerated acceptance with a steadily growing clientele. McConnell is well aware of many businesses that have come and gone over the years. Management believes they have the “special sauce” to persist in the Glebe. Their being out of the Lansdowne to Glebe Avenue corridor should do them well.
Banditos’s management has nothing but praise for the Glebe BIA. Said McConnell, “They have been fantastic so far. They were here on day one, coming by to make sure everything was OK.” The owners are also pleased with the way the city maintains the adjoining small green spaces. They fast-tracked through Liquor Licence Board of Ontario red tape by taking over the licence from the previous holders.
“We’re excited to be in the Glebe. We’re friendly and thrive on a very diverse client base, especially in the summer.” Their price point is attractive to the younger crowd and school-age visitors from the likes of Glebe Collegiate and Glashan frequent the place. Casual and more formal corporate lunches make up a noticeable portion of their noon business. McConnell would not call Banditos a sports bar, but they do show the games and provide popular and affordable food for those so inclined.
Whenever possible they use local suppliers. “Some of it, like hot sauces, are local and we are working on expanding a relationship with a local meat supplier.”
Parking is easy on the street and there is always the ever-popular parkade at Third and Bank. The establishment is accessible. When I wondered where the snow will be piled, McConnell offered a solution without pausing for thought.
Whether it’s the Boy Scouts’ Be Prepared motto or the Girl Guides’ Promise, Banditos exemplifies a flexible, affordable, not to mention enjoyable environment for anyone to hang, imbibe and gobble food from a very popular corner of the food industry. These qualities bode well for Banditos during the soon-to-come change in the weather and massive amounts of the white stuff.
Michael Abbey is a retired high-tech professional and bridge enthusiast who writes about business for the Glebe Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.