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At Bandoleros in Concord, an American dream worth waiting for

This new Mexican restaurant is busy and buzzy

Tacos at Bandoleros in Concord.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Where to: Bandoleros in Concord.

Why: For Mexican food in a suburban shopping plaza, with lines out the door in the middle of the week, coupled with a uniquely American success story.

Inside Bandoleros in Concord.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

The backstory: “Every day is a fiesta in Concord,” says Bandoleros owner Elmer Melendez. In 1999, he fled violence in El Salvador to come to the United States with his wife, Delmy Madana, and two young children. He found a cooking job at Savory Lane in Acton. Later, he became a cook at Serafina’s in Concord. In 2007, he began opening his own restaurants with his wife: Dario’s in Fitchburg; Bandoleros in Devens.


His latest triumph is opening a second Bandoleros in the very space where he got a job all those years ago: This is the former Serafina’s, where he was once a young cook.

“It’s an achievement for me, 20 years later. I started out working 100 hours a week. Now, I own my own business. Life has come full circle,” he says.

Enmoladas at Bandoleros. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

What to eat: I’ll get this out of the way first: On our visit, Bandoleros was seriously understaffed. People really want to eat here, and there aren’t enough servers or cooks to accommodate them. Our chipper server, Mason, was responsible for almost the entire dining room, which is large and busy. An order of chips never came. Our tamale appetizer arrived after our meals were finished (we took it to go). We waited a long time for almost everything, from drinks to dishes. But Mason was so enthusiastic and so apologetic. Thank you, Mason!

Plus, the food is really tasty, when it does arrive. If you’re a queso fan (and, oh, I am), the version here is creamy and zippy, movie-theater-style with hot, salty chips ($10). There’s also a purist queso fundido with Oaxacan and Chihuahua cheeses and poblano pepper strips ($13). Melendez recommended the chicharrons, so we tried them in taco form (three for $20), served on blue corn tortillas with pickled onions and pineapple, a satisfying blend of fatty and fruity. Chile rellenos are splashed with a savory, light salsa criolla, a garlicky tomato sauce ($19). There’s also a kids’ menu with the usual suspects; my first-grader enjoyed his chicken tenders and fries ($9).


The menu is big and warrants further exploration. Beyond the Tex-Mex standards, there are birria tacos with beef consommé; tortas; and grilled corn rolled in cojita and lime. My advice is to try it all out in a couple of weeks, once they’ve had more time to settle in.

Queso fundido at Bandoleros. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

What to drink: There’s a full roster of margaritas ($15). The classic one, which Mason assured me is not made from a mix, is tart and tasty; the spicy version is served lukewarm. There are also Jarritos sodas, horchata, and fresh fruit drinks. My husband, on antibiotics and eschewing cocktails, was placated with a refreshing hibiscus-flavored agua de Jamaica.

The takeaway: “We’ve gotten amazing support from the community,” says Melendez. This is clear by the throngs at the host stand. Now, he just needs someone to staff it. Once that happens, it’s easy to picture this becoming a go-to for Concord and beyond.

Bandoleros, 195 Sudbury Road, Concord, 978-680-5005, www.mybandoleros.com

Inside Bandoleros.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com. Follow her @kcbaskin.