Kanwar Sandhanwalia rejoices on Plymouth Rd.
From the May, 2019 issue
After what he describes as "nineteen months of hell," in April Kanwar "Singh" Sandhanwalia was smiling from behind the counter of his newly opened Plymouth Rd. Bandito's. "I'm the happiest person in the world," he says. "I think I hit the lotto."
Sandhanwalia's nightmare began in August 2017, with what he thought would be a temporary closure of the Mexican restaurant's original location on S. Fourth Ave. Initially he was told he would need to close for six hours to accommodate construction on the Montgomery Houze condos. Soon, six hours became two months, and then "every month it was 'next month,'" he told the Observer in May 2018.
Sandhanwalia never stopped paying his employees after the closing. In October, still anticipating a December reopening, he told us he had taken out a large loan and going to Costco just to eat the food samples. This spring, he finally called it quits, seeking out a new location and spending his last money on renovations of the former Olga's Kitchen.
Now, he can't stop grinning as he rushes back and forth to prep for the dinner rush. The new restaurant boasts 180 seats, including colorful rustic carved chairs saved from the old restaurant. His wife, Ajneet, an artist, painted a mural of three women dancing in colorful dresses and applied a trendy colorful "faux" paint to the other walls. Sandhanwalia says he's special-ordered a metal light-up Corona sign, and he's trying to find an exact match for the restaurant's original silverware.
"I feel great," Sandhanwalia says. "I feel awesome; I feel enthusiastic! I feel happy when I see my customers walking in with a smile and saying 'Singh! where you been, man?"
Throughout his ordeal, Bandito's customers have remained incredibly loyal, waiting patiently for the reopening and purchasing gift cards during the hiatus to sustain Sandhanwalia and his employees. One man, after reading our October update on Sandhanwalia's plight, even sent a $500 check to his home.
He "didn't have to
give the menu to customers," and the place is already filling up. "Yesterday I had this one gentleman who had three dinners. I've had customers wear their sombreros here that I've gotten them in the last ten, fifteen years." His employees have all returned too.
The Tex-Mex menu remains the same as ever: "Same menu, new logo," says Sandhanwalia. "It worked for thirty years; why can't it work for seven more?"--the length of his new lease. He took over the restaurant from his parents, who founded it in 1991. He says it's the only workplace he's ever known.
Though Sandhanwalia was concerned about moving away from downtown, he says he's glad he did. "We've been getting a lot more families," he observes, while longtime customers are as loyal as ever. "I'm just so happy and so energized just seeing these customers lining up and saying 'we missed you,'" he says. "I love being on the north side!"
He opened on April Fools' Day, just in time to start recovering from his losses. "My account is positive right now," he says with relief.
Bandito's, 3395 Plymouth Rd. (734) 996-0234. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. banditosmi.com
[Originally published in May, 2019.]
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