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Za's Brick Oven Pizza / Loco Bandito's / CW's Taproom / Naughty Macs, 1260 Bower Parkway: 2005   13 comments

Posted at 10:53 pm in Uncategorized

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:



Written by ted on May 5th, 2011

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13 Responses to 'Za's Brick Oven Pizza / Loco Bandito's / CW's Taproom / Naughty Macs, 1260 Bower Parkway: 2005'

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  1. I ate at Za's twice. it was pretty good. Like a number of other places out there, they were done in by the high rent accrording to a newspaper article.


    5 May 11 at 11:14 pm

  2. I don't recall Za's there at all but there was another restaurant in that space too. In fact, it too was owned by Carolina Wings. I cannot recall the name, but I remember eating there one year with my wife before a movie. The menu was different than a typical Carolina Wings menu with fewer flavors and different sides. I remember they had sweet potato fries. I guarantee it was not the Loco Bandito. Perhaps the Loco Bandito was the CW folks' rebranding attempt?

    To be clear as I recall, it was owned by a former Carolina Wings employee (manager?) not actually owned by Carolina Wings but perhaps somehow franchised? There was a relationship there.



    6 May 11 at 4:05 am

  3. I seem to recall there being a brew pub there, but the name escapes me. From what I heard, that business wasn't doing well, so rather than just shutdown, they went the Mexican restaurant direction just to keep it somewhat afloat until the lease ran out. The rent in those days was $36/sqft. Not sure what it is today.


    6 May 11 at 6:14 am

  4. I think the Za's was there around 2002. Was this the place that was briefly called 'Naughty Macs' a few years ago? So far as brew pubs, there once was a place called the CW's Taproom or something like that. I don't recall exactly where it was, but this is a possibility, if it had a "Carolina Wings" connection.


    6 May 11 at 8:11 am

  5. I lived nearby back in the early 2000s, and Za's closed in late 2003 or early 2004. And I agree, there was another restaurant there, a microbrewery, after Loco Bandito's, but I can't find what it was.


    6 May 11 at 8:36 am

  6. It was indeed CW's (Carolina Wings) Taproom, then Naughty Macs. What a horrible name. They were not a brewpub, but carried an extensive selection of beers on tap. I don't think Za's was here. I think it was where The British Bulldog is located, in the old Willy's. I may be incorrect. But then again, I don't think CW's was the first tenant. I know Charleston Crabhouse was where Copper River is.


    6 May 11 at 10:14 am

  7. I do remember this being Za's Brick Oven Pizza. My parents and I got pizza takeout from them and weren't very impressed. One of my classes in early 2003 when I was a freshman in high school we got pizza rom them and several weren't impressed, either.

    I do remember the Carolina Wings Tap Room (CW's tap room) but never made it inside. I had a friend that worked there when it was there.

    Charleston Crab House was done in by an increase in the lease from what I heard. The same goes for the Dillard's at Richland Mall.


    6 May 11 at 3:31 pm

  8. It was definitely a Za's, then the Mexican place, followed by CW's Taproom. They had a great beer selection and used to have a monthly cigar and pint night with the Tobacco Merchant in the same shopping center. They hit the scene just as SC legalized higher alcohol content in beer and everyone was enjoying the new high gravity beer selections. Naughty Macs was the same concept by a CW's manager who bought the place from the CW's ownership. It folded shortly after, reportedly due to a ton of undisclosed debt passed on by the former ownership.


    6 May 11 at 10:46 pm

  9. Here are the facts:

    It was originally a Za's, as evidenced not only by the large brick pizza oven inside, but also by the still remaining outline of the stenciling of the the Za's name on the back kitchen door of the bar.

    Then the Carolina Wings people took it over and made it Loco Bandito's.

    This failed quickly (summer of 2005), so the Carolina Wings people closed it down and took a few months to re-invent it as CW's Taproom which had 50 taps on the wall, frequent Brewer nights and Cigar & Pint nights. This opened August/September of '05.

    This place ran until a Carolina Wings manager took it over and renamed it Naughty Mac's. This was about the end of '07, beginning of '08.

    It only operated for 3 months because it turned out that the owner of Carolina Wings either misled the Naughty Mac's owner that he could even take over the lease in the first place, or the CW owner wasn't properly handing the rent payment over to the landlord as the Naughty Mac's owner paid it to him to begin with - take your pick of which story is more true.

    The property hasn't operated since.

    The next restaurant property over, currently occupied by Copper River, was originally developed by 2 partners to be 'Champions Roadhouse' when they were taken to court over naming rights. After spending $1.8M on everything to that point, the one partner removed the remaining $200k from the bank account and left joke.

    Needless to say, the place never opened. But the remaining partner ended up investing in a franchise unit up in Greenville. That company? Carolina Wings, no less!! Well, that store never saw black ink so he ended up coming back to Columbia to manage a separate Carolina Wings unit.

    Charleston Crabhouse moved into the empty unit for a while (one of at least 3 locations they have been in locally) and when they left, the unit sat empty until the summer of '06. This is when Copper River moved in, and still operates to this day.

    As for the next unit over, the Former Willy's/Foxfire grill: the restaurant was leased for it's last year or two of operation from the very well known local restauranteur that had always owned it. When the overall lease finally expired and it came time to sign a new one, the well known owner obviously wanted to walk away having been renting out his restaurant for a while at that point. Well, the leasing operator couldn't come to an equitable agreement directly with the property owner so it went under - this was in October of '09.

    The store sat vacant until the current English place opened up in January of 2011. Word is they are behind on rent and they recently reduced their hours of operation as well so that's a bad sign. Not to mention the owners recently got into a physical fight in the establishment!! Yikes!

    In the meantime, Bonefish Grill and Wild Wing Cafe have both been operating unwaveringly for the last 5 years in the same strip-mall.


    22 Jul 11 at 4:50 pm

  10. Great history lesson there, thanks justin. I wonder if the space is cursed?


    29 Jul 11 at 9:43 pm

  11. A place called HuyHot Mongolian Grill is open here...


    3 Oct 12 at 10:46 pm

  12. make that HuHot Mongolian Grill...


    3 Oct 12 at 10:47 pm

  13. My apologies if this is a stupid question. But how do restaurants in that plaza suceed? I bet the rent they have to pay is through the roof. Anyone know anything about this?

    Paul D

    5 Oct 12 at 12:16 am

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