Casa de Bandini (Most romantic lunch date)- Carlsbad, CA

Casa de Bandini

Beautiful Sunday, fresh warm chips, amazing salsa, pescado con cangrejo…I can feel the breeze coming through the patio and closed my eyes to take it all in…then an older gentleman with a younger boy starts serenading the area with the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard.

What the heck is going on here.

I’m having *THE* most amazing date EVER.

With myself.

I know it sounds ridiculous (and vain as my friends were texting me). But I could not believe how calm everything was, how amazing the restaurant felt, how simple things were, and how just EVERYTHING seemed to fit into place that afternoon.

Why the heck can’t all dates be like this. Seriously.

Hence, why I am the perfect date. For myself. Good luck to the next guy who goes out with me.

Just kidding. Kinda.

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I wasn’t even planning on coming here for lunch that Sunday. I was in the area and for some odd reason, Mexican food sounded good to me (which is weird because I don’t eat Mexican food). I think it was the aroma of the freshly fried chips that suckered  me in here.

This is a pic of their bar area. It wasn’t very busy so I felt comfortable having a solo lunch there that afternoon. They have a few tables and one/two tv’s playing sports in the background. Everything and everyone seemed so laid back.

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Who can resist a woman making fresh flour tortillas. She was so friendly too. I didn’t know if she was making random tortillas ‘for show’ or these were legit tortillas given to the customers.

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– warm chips

Eloy, the waiter, brought these out quickly. What is it about fresh chips that drives a girl crazy. Granted, I don’t eat a lot of chips and I don’t indulge all that often in this carb BUT dayum – these chips were amazing. They were so warm and perfectly salted.

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 – salsa

I think these are two identical salsas. It was truly one of the best restaurant salsas I’ve ever had. It wasn’t too chunky or too watery. There was just the right amount of ratio of tomato, salsa, onions, spices.

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I was super confused because I’m telling you that I really don’t eat Mexican food all that often. I visited Bandini’s sister restaurant in Del Mar (Casa Sol y Mar) some time ago and was terribly disappointed with the food/service. Could this restaurant be better? It was looking positive.

Eloy sensed my fears and told me that if I didn’t like what I ordered, he’ll simply take it off the check and we’ll get something else. Easy peasy. I liked that alot. It just took some of the stress off (I always get stressed when I eat Mexican food because I don’t ever know what to order).

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– Pescado a la Diana

A magnificent combination of pescado blanco filet with crab legs and avocado. Topped with a spicy jalapeno bearnaise sauce. 

It was served with achiote vegetables and fiesta (?) rice. I usually substitute the rice for extra veggies but felt like trying out their fiesta rice that day (and dang, why not go for broke in the carb department).

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I enjoyed this dish. Shocking – I know. The white fish was cooked nicely and you can SEE and taste the generous crab on top of the fish. The bearnaise sauce was creamy and yummy.

I was super impressed with their fiesta rice. I thought it would be the same ol’ tomato orange colored rice I see served everywhere else. But NO. This rice was served hot and fresh. It had sauteed SPINACH (!!),  onions, and peppers. It didn’t taste like they just scooped this rice from some warming bucket and onto my plate.

Even the little salad that came with it (above the fish/crab on the plate) was refreshing. I loved it even more when I scooped some of the chip’s salsa on top of it 🙂

The date was going well. Like, I’m blowing it outta the water.

I eat alone all the time. I usually go to the same places so I don’t usually take the time to take in a new environment because, well, I just don’t care. But this restaurant, that afternoon, quietly nudged me to take note of a few things I’d normally shrug at.

I’m not a sunny, breezy weather type of gal. But the bar area just had the most comfortable feel about it with the patio doors open. There was something about eating, feeling the cool breeze brush my back and legs, and feeling happy. There wasn’t too much noise. Perhaps that was it too. I didn’t have that weird sensory overload that I usually get when I go eat at new places.

It was just incredibly comfortable and easy to people watch (without looking like a creep).

Then my gaze remembered the tortilla woman.

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I asked Eloy if my entree came with tortillas and he said yes it does. He asked if I wanted flour or corn tortillas. After I replied ‘flour’, I watched him walk to the tortilla woman and start chatting with her.

A few minutes later, he set two HOT freshly made tortillas right in front of me.

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The tortilla woman, indeed, does make these for the customers. It wasn’t just for show 🙂

Freshly made, hot off the griddle tortillas is like beef noodle soup. It MUST be eaten right away. It’s worth burning the roof of your mouth. Because once cold or lukewarm, fuhgettabout it.

I wanted to snuggle with these things. I’m pretty sure I looked like an idiot putting them to my face and smiling when I took a sniff of em.

And as if things couldn’t get ANY better. Look…

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I CRINGED when I initially saw these guys. I THOUGHT they were mariachi dudes who were going to play loud, obnoxious music. But then I took a closer look at the younger man’s face. He wasn’t flashy. And then I heard his partner start singing.

I couldn’t believe this older gentleman was the one singing this beautiful song. Hearing him sing it and watching the two of them strum their guitars….gosh…it was just so…romantic.

Like not in a barfy way. But romantic in a way that you feel like you’re in Tolum, in a small restaurant by the water, and hearing just authentic, non touristy music being played to you.

The song was Toda Una Vida. It’s truly so beautiful.

The guys were stopping by tables taking requests. Some customers were bashful and said no. Others welcomed it. Then they came over to me. The younger boy said that this is his father’s production and that usually it’s him and his dad that sings. But today, it was his uncle. How awesome is that.

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Then they asked if I’d like a song. This normally ‘leave me alone’ gal would normally hide under the table before being serenaded. But not that day.

The boy said they are there Sat-Sun 12-3:30p and Mon-Tues 6-9p. You bet I’ll be back to hear them play again.

Does this change the way I feel about Mexican food. Maybe a little bit. But I think this entire experience would have been different had the restaurant been crowded and/or I had a different server. BUT – this is the first Mexican restaurant, in a very long time, that I can say I’d be excited to try out again.

Yeah. I totally smashed it. I’d SO ask myself out again.

Casa de Bandini
1901 Calle Barcelona
Carlsbad, CA 92009
(760) 634-3443






14 thoughts on “Casa de Bandini (Most romantic lunch date)- Carlsbad, CA

  1. What song(s) did you request? When I first started reading this post, I was thinking…good for you faye, getting yourself out there again. But you were your own date! OMG I can’t stand Mariachi either lol. I basically don’t like most music that is so in-your-face. I also don’t like metal, punk, anything that gives me a headache and makes my ears hurt.

    I love freshly made tortilla chips too! And the perfect salsa is essential. Sometimes I get filled up on the chips before the orders even come out.

    Relaxing Sundays are the best. I sure do miss those. But a good thing about getting weekdays off is that a lot of places aren’t too crowded since most people are at work/school. I hate overcrowded places! OMG I am FINALLY taking a vacation next week, first time in two years!! I am stoked about it. I just never found the right time, but I think I reached a point of really really needing one before I go crazy. I am so looking forward to it!

    1. Hi Miss Kim,

      I didn’t know what I requested but I remember they played Sabor en Mi (or something) for me. It wasn’t as amazing as Toda una Vida but still pretty good. Thanks for your faith in me ‘for getting out there again’ 🙂

      I think you might have a noise aversion similar to mine. You know it’s actually called misophonia (I just googled it). There are certain noises that make me crazy.

      I’m so happy to hear about your upcoming vacation. Where are you going to go? Tell me it’s somewhere outside of LA.

      Lazy Sundays/Saturdays are the best. Especially when things just all seem to come together you know? That Sunday for me just couldn’t have been any more perfect (still remember the sunny weather and the cool breeze). It’s supposed to be HAWT this week though – I hope the weather cools down a bit before your vacation starts.

      Happy Monday Behgo 🙂

  2. This sounds so pleasant :))) Normally when the mariachi guys come towards my table I just cower in fear and shake my head and think about how I never carry any cash so I can’t tip them so they would be mad at me. But this sounds nothing like that! Yay for you enjoying Mexican food, you must be one of the few San Diegans that doesn’t eat it all the time! I had never had a bite of Mexican food until I was 17 and visiting San Diego and LA to visit schools….and now I’d estimate at least 3 meals of my life per week are Mexican (counting Chipotle I suppose).

    And those tortillas. Wow. I don’t love tortillas and usually neglect them but good flour tortillas are addictive.

    1. I’m the SAME way ! I never have cash either but it’s more b/c I don’t want the attention the mariachi brings to the table you know? I’m totally giggling trying to picture you cowering b/c you thought they’d be mad at your b/c of no tip. I totally get it.

      I get told all the time I’m not normal and don’t belong in SD b/c I can’t eat Mex food. But trust me, I’ve tried. Have you been to Cuatros Milpas? I even drove down there to try this famous shop but ended up w/ what my friends dubbed the’saddest stinky face’ ever. But wow – three meals a week being Mexican food? Sis loves Mex food too – esp Chipotle.

      How come you waited until 17 to try Mexican food? Didn’t they have Mex food in Brazil (sorry if it’s dumb question but I don’t know)? I didn’t have my first bite of sashimi until I was 21 so I guess it’s possible. I wonder if that’s why I love sashimi so much now (as you love Mexican food). Because we waited so long to try it and now savor it.

      How do you not love tortillas?!!! I want to take you to Bandini and shove a freshly made hot tortilla in your face JUST to prove you wrong 🙂 Oh, and show you my still nicely manicured hands to boot too.

      Hope you have a great week J.S!

      1. I haven’t been to Cuatro Milpas but I want to go?? I’ve heard that it is both amazing/so worth it and I’ve also heard its overrated/super greasy. So not sure what to believe. I think you are on the latter camp haha.

        It’s not a dumb question at all! Mexican food was not popular in Brazil when I was growing up (and even now almost never see it there) and then I finished high school in Toronto in Canada and there it was also pretty much non existent. Some places had nachos but thats about it.

        That’s so funny that you only had your first bite of sashimi when you were 21, in Sao Paulo the city I lived in in Brazil Japanese food is SUPER popular. Sao Paulo has one of the largest Japanese communities in the world so sushi is really popular and I probably started eating it when I was a kid! But yes no Mexi food and now I’m obsessed with it.

        Both of us must be trying to make up for the lost time without Mexican food/sashimi 😉

        And I don’t know maybe its more corn tortillas that I am unimpressed by? A lot of times when we go to Taco Tuesday I just eat the insides of the tacos and just kind of nibble on the edges of the tortilla like a weirdo. But that flour tortilla from Bandini did look pretty amazing.

        Oh and: HOW ARE YOUR NAILS STILL SHINY AND NICE. I chip mine within two days MAX. Teach me your magical nail preserving ways.

        1. Hi JS,

          I went to Cuatro Milpas with two friends (who love Mex food) and they found everything to be alright. I really am curious to see how you’d like it though. I have a feeling you’re going to love it.

          Brazilian Japanese food?! Sounds so interesting! I think you need to host a dinner party and invite me. Just sayin’. I wonder if we can find a Mexican Japanese restaurant so that way we can both be happy if we eat a meal together.

          I’m still surprised there weren’t a lot of Mexican restaurants in Brazil. Even Taiwan has a bunch now. Actually, never mind. I just realized what I typed. Back in the day I’m sure there weren’t many Mexican restaurants in Taiwan 🙂

          I HATE corn tortillas too!! They give you the option to choose b/w corn or flour tortillas so you’re safe there. I’m so glad you’re a flour tortilla type of chick. Ok, now you’ve redeemed yourself. J/k!

          This is how I keep my nails so shiny and nice. You ready. I skip the gym. There. Oh – and I reach for things real slowly. Usually I’m a go-go-go person but if I have a nice mani, I move like a turtle.

          I can’t believe I just divulged my secret(s) to keeping a great mani. Hahahah!! Hope you’re staying cool and hydrated – it’s going to be a warm week.

    1. Hi CC

      That was the song they serenaded! I wasn’t sure of the name so thanks for clarifying. It was a pretty song (listening to it now and my office mates are wondering why I’ve been listening to Mexican love songs last few days).

      Have a great week CC –

  3. I laughed when I read that you had your doubts if they actually served the tortillas made by the woman or not. It reminds me of having lunch at a place in Las Vegas, where they had a fresh fish display of fish on ice. I wondered if they actually used the fish, but after a little while of staring intently at it, a chef came by and scooped up some of the fish into a bowl and left for the kitchen. I was surprised, because he even stopped and grabbed some vegetables off the display as well. Maybe they were running low in the kitchen or something…

    Fresh tortillas are awesome – and so are fresh tortilla chips! But even the freshest tortilla chips can’t save a bland, watery salsa… I always feel sad when I go to a restuarant that serves freshly fried tortilla chips, with some tasteless or overly acidic salsa.

    Hmm, for some reason, I’ve come to associate authentic Mexican food with the small, mom and pop joints that serve burritos and tacos. Because of that, I haven’t really been to a lot of the sit down Mexican restaurants around San Diego, so I think I might be missing out on something here…

    1. Hi Ben,

      I know right. I was nervous the tortilla woman wasn’t real or something. Like an actress just pretending to make tortillas. It’s just that I had a bad experience at Casa sol y Mar so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Bandini. Your Vegas story was funny – I like how you *discreetly* observe. Hey, you know what I’m thinking right now though. When you dine at Asian seafood restaurants, what’s your take on the chef/waiter bringing out the live fish for you to check out before they cook it. My family usually insists on this but I know some customers get freaked out by it.

      I liked the salsa at Bandini. I didn’t personally find it watery. I’ve been to a bunch of mom/pop burrito/taco joints but just never have found the ONE. Let me know if there’s a particular one that you really love and I’ll have to try it out. Maybe I liked Bandini b/c it wasn’t just a taco/burrito restaurant. I thought my entree was nice and authentic (well, authentic enough for me). They have a diverse menu so I think it’s a worth a try if you’re in the area.

      Happy Tues Ben –

  4. I think I’m a pretty good date, too. Actually, though, when I take myself out I’m usually nose deep in my Kindle and ignoring the world. haha.

    Fresh chips that are salted JUST enough are so killer. It’s easy to just fill up on chips and forget allllllll about your entree coming.

    The right guy for you will totally appreciate you for being yourself and acting like yourself so you’ll be the perfect date for him whenever he comes along! There isn’t really anyone who’s “perfect” but there can be someone who’s perfect “for” you and who appreciates everything about you 😀

    Man. Now I want some chips.

    1. Hi Mary!

      Hahahahaaa!!!! You’re so vain too! I love it!

      Yeah, it’s hard to stop eating fresh chips man. I try to get three bites outta each chip. Somehow that makes me control me from chowing down on em so fast 🙁

      Thank you for your words of wisdom on finding the ‘right guy’. He’ll find me 🙂

      Welcome back!

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