Bandolero’s Opening-Night Food and Margarita Fest (Pictures)

Chef Mike Isabella hopes his new M Street eatery will “start a movement back to Georgetown.”
Bandolero's opening party last night. Photographs by Jeff Martin.
Bandolero's opening party last night. Photographs by Jeff Martin.

If the smile on his face was any indication, chef
Mike Isabella was the happiest man on M Street
last night. Whether it was plating irresistible party food, greeting
friends, or racing
from one end to the other of his new Georgetown restaurant,
Bandolero, the ear-to-ear grin didn’t leave his face. It may have
been practically monsooning outside, but inside no one noticed.

“I’m so excited,” Isabella said, taking in the festive
atmosphere while trays of food and potent margaritas flew by. He said
he’s also excited about being in Georgetown, a neighborhood
that’s missed DC’s culinary explosion due to high rents and restrictive
liquor laws. Those facts didn’t deter Isabella, who said he’s
“ready to start a movement back to Georgetown.” Now that he’s
opened up shop, he said, he expects “others will follow.”

One of those others may be
Spike Mendelsohn, a friend of Isabella’s who was also a contestant on Bravo’s
Top Chef and helms Good Stuff Eatery and We, the
Pizza, both on Capitol Hill. I asked Isabella if he had any intel on the
rumors that
Mendelsohn is coming to Georgetown. “Nothing specific,” he
said, “but Spike said to me, ‘We’re gonna be neighbors soon.’”
The location Mendelsohn is rumored to be considering, the
former Morso restaurant, is half a block from Bandolero. Another

Top Chef contestant who is a friend of Isabella’s,
Jennifer Carroll, walked up and gave him a big hug. They appeared together in season six, when the show was in Las Vegas.

There are parties with food, and then there are
parties with incredible food. Last night’s blast was the latter, which
is
why guests grouped close to the kitchen—all the better to get
first grab at tacos or tostadas made with crab, pork belly,
or mahi-mahi; snapper with corn; poblano and cheese empanadas;
sopes of lamb and goat cheese; and a large round table
filled with bowls of guacamole, pumpkin-seed-and-jalapeño spread, and
salsa.
Isabella called Bandolero’s food “modern Mexican,” and
emphasized it should not be confused with Southwestern or Tex-Mex
cuisine.

Regardless of its provenance, the food was a hit. No
one left hungry. Everyone did leave with a bit of swag: a Bandolero
T-shirt,
black to keep with the restaurant’s “day of the dead” theme,
and attached to it a little plastic bag holding one perfect macaroon.

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