Za's Brick Oven Pizza / Loco Bandito's / CW's Taproom / Naughty Macs, 1260 Bower Parkway: 2005 13 comments
Today is Cinco de Mayo, so today's closing is Mexican.
As I recall it, Loco Bandito's lasted only a short time in Columbiana Station, the upscale strip mall behind Wal-Mart on Bower Parkway.
I found out about the place from a very positive Eaton Wright piece in The State published just after the grand opening. Judging from the archives, it was probably from the Weekend section on 10 December 2004. Apparently Loco Bandito's was started by the owner of the local Carolina Wings & Rib House chain, and the attraction (aside from the main dishes) was supposed to be a large array of fresh salsas and endless chips on a free bar.
For me, chips & salsa are the main draws in a Mexican restaurant. I like the main dishes, of course, but really the chips and salsa is what brings me in (and I won't go back to a place that doesn't have them). In my mind, the best salsa in Columbia is at El Chico (once you add the hot peppers anyway) though I always get pushback whenever I say that here. Be that as it may, I was looking forward to trying what Loco Bandito's had to offer.
In the event, I'm afraid I found the place very substandard. As I recall, the chips were especially disappointing, being the greasy, flexible, chewy, unbreakable kinds you get sometimes when the frying process goes awry. Honestly, you should check each batch, and not put out a batch like that. The promised wide array of salsas was underwhelming as well. I don't recall exactly what I thought about them at this remove, but certainly they did not live up to expectations. There was something weird about the setup that I can't recall either. It was something like they didn't give you decent bowls for the salsa though that might not have been quite it. And to top it off, the service was rather ditzy and inattentive.
Anyway, I resolved to never go back and never did. Now perhaps I caught them on a bad night, but I can't find any reference to the place being in business after Feb 2005, so I'm thinking my experience was not unique.
I don't recall a Za's being here at all, but the Eaton Wright piece namechecks it as the former tenant.
UPDATE 7 May 2011: Added CW's Taproom and Naughty Macs to the post title based on the comments.
UPDATE 29 November 2012 -- As mentioned in the comments, HuHot Mongolian Grill is going into this spot: