Local Meals: Banditos Fresh Mex loves a new home on Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor
ANN ARBOR – Ken Singh has been running a staple of Mexican cuisine in downtown Ann Arbor for more than 25 years when construction forced its closure in 2017.
Now he’s back in a new place with Banditos Fresh Mex on Plymouth Road and happier than ever.
Singh said he was not missing out on his downtown days and had no plans to return. The new space is three times the size of his restaurant on Fourth Ave. and has ample parking, better roadside access, and none of the restrictions of running a street restaurant that he calls “Ann Arbor’s Forgotten Child.”
Singh’s family immigrated to the United States in the 1980s and founded Raja Rani – a staple of Indian cuisine in Ann Arbor – before taking over Bandito’s Fourth Avenue location in 1991. His father Jay Singh brought his culinary expertise to the Tex-Mex concept. Expansion of the menu and rapid growth of the business.
By the time the younger Singh took over, he had years of restaurant experience growing up in the industry. That dedication and determination to stay in business has led him through two challenges lately – the development of Montgomery Houze, which forced its closure for several months and ultimately resulted in him looking for a new space, and the COVID -19 pandemic he’s involved in is a burgeoning carryout business.
In the summer of 2017, Mongtomery’s development forced Houze Singh to close due to a temporary closure while a crane was working on the 41-unit housing estate above his restaurant. Delays and setbacks meant that the project and the associated road closures lasted longer than expected.
The Banditos Restaurant is temporarily closing due to the construction of Ann Arbor
“They gutted my restaurant,” he said. “My restaurant was gutted to the ground – three months passed with construction delays and then another month with further delays.”
After struggling to make ends meet for almost a year, Singh said he stumbled upon his new place by accident while having lunch in Plymouth Crossing and noticed a “For Lease” sign at the former location of Olga’s Kitchen.
On April 1, 2019, he reopened Banditos in this room and assured his customers that it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.
“I had a queue at the door for about two or three weeks,” he said, “I’ve made new customers and I’ve had all of my old followers.”
Even in the face of the pandemic, Singh said the restaurant is doing as well as he could expect, with a healthy roadside business and a stream of customers traveling on nearby US 23.
“I am the happiest person in the world. It’s like winning the lottery, ”he said.
Singh has also redesigned Bandito’s menu with an emphasis on fresh ingredients, homemade tortillas, sauces and guacamole, as well as organic halal meat.
He brought back the restaurant’s famous nachos banditos – a heaped tray of french fries with beans, black olives, onions, tomatoes, sliced jalapenos, a cheese mix, and a whole fried jalapeno pepper. The restaurant is also known for its quesadillas, which are baked rather than fried for a flaky, pastry-like crust. The carne asada is served in a pan with organic halal beef and a mixture of fresh peppers, onions and corn.
Banditos Fresh Mex, located at 3395 Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor, is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Customers can order online at www.banditosmi.com for contactless implementation. The restaurant also offers personal meals with a capacity of 50%.
More local dishes in Washtenaw County:
Local cuisine: Ann Arbor’s Juicy Kitchen offers fresh, customized brunch and to-go delicacies
Local Cuisine: The Loomi Cafe offers an eclectic menu in Ann Arbors Kerrytown
Local Dishes: Alpha Koney Island is reborn as the Alpha Diner in the Ann Arbor area
Local dishes: Moon-Sky’s cheesesteak truck hurls simple, hearty sandwiches
Local cuisine: Metzger’s German restaurant has weathered depression, wars and a pandemic
Local dishes: Ann Arbor’s Jagged Fork offers breakfast and juicy brunch
Local Dishes: Jim Brady’s adds stunning apps, new pastas and salads at Ann Arbor Restaurant
Local Cuisine: Chelsea Burger brings a quick, laid-back concept to historic downtown
Local Dishes: Frank’s Place keeps the Manchester family pizza tradition alive
Local dishes: Smokehouse 52 serves “Comfort Food” during COVID in Saline, Chelsea
Local Cuisine: The newest restaurant in Chelsea is Burger Joint Sushi Bar and more
Local Dishes: LA’s ‘Bao Boys’ bring steamed buns to Ann Arbor by food truck pusher
Local dishes: Goras Grill continues the vegetarian tradition in the Ypsilanti fast-casual area
Local dishes: childhood friends, EMU alums open halal burger shop in Ypsi
Local dishes: Ann Arbor’s Earthen Glass rotates on a plate from the buffet to the Thali festival
Local Cuisine: Have a cocktail or try steak on toast at Raven’s Club in Ann Arbor
Local Cuisine: Try authentic Turkish cuisine at Ann Arbor’s Ayse’s Cafe
Local Food: Miss Kim serves up a taste of Korean zing at Ann Arbor
Local Cuisine: Gabriel’s Cheese Steak Hoagies has served sandwiches for 60 years
Local dishes: Taco Tuesday, margaritas keep Maiz Mexican Cantina alive in Ypsilanti
Local Restaurants: The Old Town Tavern has served downtown Ann Arbor for nearly 50 years
Local Cuisine: The Jamaican Jerk Pit serves a taste of the Caribbean in downtown Ann Arbor
Local Food: Enjoy Red Hawks home cooking in Ann Arbor
Local Cuisine: Enjoy a bowl of ramen at Slurping Turtle in Ann Arbor