guy opens a tacoria in Moab and two years later hes
talking corporate chains. But not before Banditos becomes
a full-fledged Cantina a restaurant and club promising
a curb appeal Banditos owner Darrin McCollum
admits the restaurant currently lacks. What Banditos or
its owner does not lack, however, is passion, for food and
There are probably 10 percent of the population who
get to do for a living what they enjoy, Darrin says.
I really am passionate about what I do. Darrin
said he takes it very personally if someone
doesnt like his food. Not the hurt feelings-type personally,
but literally. I created every one of these recipes,
he says. So if its not right, I want to know,
and I want to know why.
Part of the process of keeping a handle on such things are
two line checks a day, measuring the taste, temperature
and quality of everything that goes out of the kitchen.
With the red sauce, if the chiles are cooked too quickly
they are a little bitter, he says. Or if theyre
held too hot. People can taste it. If they tell me about
it, Ill fix it. Theres a 100 percent guarantee
on everything, he adds. If someone is not happy
with their meal, by all means Im going to fix it.
grew up in Mexican food-rich southern California, and began
working in restaurants when he was 13 years old. When he
was 16, Darrin said he knew he wanted to own
a restaurant. His ambition was to realize this goal by the
time he was 25 years old. It actually took 10 years longer,
a period of time Darrin worked in many Mexican restaurants,
developed a love for creating recipes, and practiced the
management thing by opening Pasta Jays in Moab in
Ive been in Moab on and off ever since,
he said. I came back the last time in 1997 to open
a restaurant. I waited tables for two and a half years until
the opportunity presented itself. Banditos opened
in May 2000 in the long vacant site of a former chain tacoria.
His Cousin, Scott Stull, and a friend, Peter Verchick, helped
him finance the deal. I told them I had recipes, location,
equipment everything except the money, Darrin says.
They invested and we did it on a real low budget at
Banditos opened as a self-serve counter restaurant with
a menu about 30 percent of the current menu. A year later
Banditos expanded its kitchen, obtained a liquor license
(peach margaritas, among other specialty drinks available),
added outdoor patio seating and became a full-serve restaurant.
I sold my 64 Corvette to get us through the
first year, Darrin added. We took a lot of criticism
at first; three dumb white guys trying to make good
Mexican food. But people like my food. Ive worked
at some really good Mexican restaurants and a lot of people
dont want to do the corporate thing, but
they have a lot of good systems in place. Were
in the midst of Phase III right now. Were going to
build a bar and add 2,500 square feet to the building. It
will include a tortilla machine in the front window and
a hitching post for bicycles and dogs. Well
have an L-shaped dance floor in the center with a non-smoking
section. I want to ventilate it so that everybody can enjoy
being in the bar. Banditos will have higher-end
menu items, while maintaining the value-rated
lunches and dinners currently available.
Darrin also plans to reopen for breakfast, something he
said he tried the first year the restaurant was open. Darrin
also plans to go back into the kitchen this
year. Running the business end, planning for the expansion
has taken him, temporarily, away from what he says he loves
to do most, and that is to create. I get in the kitchen,
start putting things together and then run to the office
and write it down, he said. I havent created
a new recipe for a while so its time to get back in
While the corporations and restaurant chains may have a
lot of good systems in place, Darrin said he wont
change the nature of his own recipe making or that every
ingredient used in his restaurant is fresh, even when he,
as he plans to do, goes corporate. In trying to choose a
Recipe of the Month Darrin had trouble finding
a recipe that didnt require two, three, four or five
recipes to get to the main fare. I like the spinning
sign and I like the logo, Darrin said. There
are no cans in our Mexi-can.
Banditos employs 25 to 30 people, more than half of them
full-time. The entire kitchen staff is full-time. Darrin
said he loves it all in terms of the recipes
and dishes available at Banditos, but customer favorites
include the fish tacos (salmon, I might specify), the chicken
Caesar salad and melt-in-your-mouth baby back ribs with
garlic mashed potatoes. Weve been recognized
by Nations Restaurant News, Shape Magazine, Goddess
Magazine and others, Darrin said. Weve
received some good press.
A little known service provided by Banditos that the Moab
community will appreciate is home delivery 11 to
2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. To order call 259-3894, or eat in
at 467 N. Main Street. Look for the spinning sign
the only one in town.
Place pinapple on cutting board
and chop until it is roughly 1/8 inch pieces. Place
all ingredients into a bowl and fold it together
until it is mixed thoroughly.