Since the offices of the VC Reporter were moved uptown, precariously close to a rib joint, I have endured an almost unnatural craving for barbecue that has consumed my entire being.
Having refused myself a rack of spare ribs for my nearly two weeks at the new office, I found my barbecue lust to be at previously unrecorded levels when I grabbed a couple of friends and headed to Bandits’ for barbecue one recent Friday night.
The Bandits’ image, in my mind, is that after a day of rough-housing, horse-wrangling, breaking hearts and stealing wallets, your average lawless ne’er-do-well could walk across a floor of peanut shells and fill up on ribs or brisket. With friends (hence: plural bandits). This fantasy was more or less satisfied as we stepped into an establishment which, if not entirely off the beaten path, was still tucked away in a corner of Old Town Camarillo (freeway-visible, sure, but with dim lighting, it retained a hideout feel).
Emily and I each ordered a glass of Berringer cabernet sauvignon. It wasn’t very Calamity Jane of us, I admit, but it matched the red meat we were about to consume and it was full-bodied with a light hint of fruitiness.
The meats come with a selection of seasoning: barbecue, spicy barbecue, teriyaki and jerk. I opted for the last.
That was my mistake; I couldn’t wholeheartedly attack the sandwich because the jerk spices literally made it painful. The menu touted the seasoning as simply “hot and spicy.” I judge spice by how well I can enjoy it and still sense the taste of the meat it covers. I couldn’t taste the meat — that’s too much spice in my mind. (And in the interest of full disclosure: I am not a pansy.)
I had abstained from ordering the spicy barbecue sauce, which a friend had requested. A quick taste of his proved that it was more edible, more palatable, than what was brushed on my tri-tip.
In the end, I was able to finish the sandwich, but only because I had eventually become numb to the sauce’s mean bite. I’m not saying that jerk spices need to be lighter; if true jerk seasoning is brutal, so be it. I only wish the good folks at Bandits’ had realized that the brand of jerk spices most locals had probably come across was a lighter, more Americanized version, and warned us accordingly (some exclamation points would’ve been nice).
Emily ordered the beef brisket, slow roasted overnight and delicious. Despite my saucy complaints, I realize now that had I taken it down a level and gone with the tangy and true house-barbecue concoction, the meal would’ve been as smooth for me as it was for my companions. Bandits’ offers up a gold standard of barbecue, offering all the expected fixin’s: juicy corn on the cob, baked potato, crispy french fries. It has a satisfying beer and wine menu, as well as a full bar.
And it was quite a deal. The menu declares the Bandits’ philosophy: a meal is a meal, complete with salad and appropriate side dish. For around $12, Bandits’ can satisfy the appetite of your active open range criminal, or your average office worker who whiles away her day idly dreaming about a slow-roasted meal.