I’ve always enjoyed margaritas, but can’t say I’ve ever sought them out or went out specifically for one. That’s probably because I’ve never had one made with premium ingredients including top shelf tequila. The Rolls Royce margarita at Casa de Bandini in Carlsbad is the margarita that will have me coming back for more and bringing friends.
Its foundation is Clase Azule, an ultra-premium, 100 percent Weber Blue Agave, Reposado Tequila that comes in a beautiful, handcrafted, hand-painted Talavera carafe and is aged for a minimum of eight months in small oak barrels. It has distinct, smooth flavors and aromas. Bottles retail between $70 and $200, which explains the $12 cost of the margarita.
The Clase Azule is combined with Triple Sec, sweet and sour, and a shot of La Pinta — pomegranate infused tequila — served on the side, which I was told I could sip, or pour into my drink. I had to give it a sip and while I’m not a huge fan of flavored alcohol, this proved to be a smooth accessory to the margarita and when I poured it in, it gave it a beautiful burgundy hue. I loved this drink and can’t wait to go back and have one on their nice outside patio. I counted 17 margaritas including a “skinny margarita” for you calorie counters that’s made up of Sauza Hornitos Reposado, Cointreau and fresh lime juice, agave nectar, then shaken over ice.
As a side note, the chips and salsa and guacamole that should accompany a good margarita, are all made in-house and delicious.
Casa de Bandini relocated to its current Carlsbad location in 2009 from Old Town, where it resided for more than 25 years and built a huge following that has followed it to their new location. One of San Diego’s more familiar sights was the long line of locals and visitors awaiting their traditional Mexican “fix” at the historic adobe built in 1829 that housed Diane Powers’ popular restaurant in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Its Forum location in Carlsbad brings with it the same romantic essence of Old Mexico — reminiscent of the original location with lavish dining rooms, enchanting lighting and lush landscaping.
Casa de Bandini guests dine under color-drenched umbrellas in outdoor patios and enjoy drinks in the restaurant’s intimate sidewalk patio. Indoors, the cozy dining rooms are decorated with Mexican folk art and hand-painted walls. The comfortable equipale chairs with colorful, hand-woven Zapotec fabric covers, and a charming hand-carved stone fountain framed by a large Talavara-tiled pool captures much of the flavor of the former location.
As far as the food goes, they utilize the freshest ingredients when possible to make their authentic regional cuisine. The menu showcases past favorites as well as innovative new entrees, seafood dishes and several healthy choice options. They have calorie and nutritional information printed next to the healthy options, which, until this point I’d not seen at an old school Mexican restaurant. I’m not sure calorie count is what I want to be thinking about when going out for this type of food so I just skimmed over that quickly.
There is a full kids and gluten-free menu with a lot of options for those not good with the gluten thing.
The fresh, restaurant-made tortillas are a draw in themselves. They come out hot and are the perfect accompaniment to most of the dishes on the menu or just on their own. I’ve taken to tearing them up into bite size shreds and mixing them into dishes or soup.
Every dish I tried provided a very substantial portion, great flavors and care in presentation normally not associated with a place doing this kind of volume. It’s been a full house every time I’ve been there and from what I’ve heard, that’s the way it is all the time. Prices are moderate and I definitely have planned to go back and sample their soup, breakfast and of course the happy hour. Mariachis entertain Wednesday through Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m. and they are very entertaining. Their full menu, hours and location can be found at casadebandini.com.
David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative, an Encinitas based integrated marketing agency. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.