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SOMETIMES it's not the way a bar looks, but the people occupying the barstools that make it worth stopping by for a couple of drinks.
I wasn't that impressed by Bandito's Cantina when I visited earlier this week, but you've got to hand it to them for attracting a full house to watch Monday Night Football live on television.
But with beer prices that can be easily matched or beaten by other establishments in the area and little else besides live sports to lure in customers, you're better off going someplace else to knock a few back.
THERE'S AN interesting layout to Bandito's Cantina, which occupies space next door to an Italian restaurant and a Denny's in the area that used to house the Pearlridge Fourplex years ago.
Walk through the front door, and you're greeted by a pair of staircases. One leads up towards the restaurant seating area and restrooms; the other takes you down into the bar area.
Unfortunately, one of those pesky "Please Wait To Be Seated" signs presents a roadblock of sorts for customers wanting to head straight for the bar.
There was an employee standing at the hostess station when I got there earlier this week, but she proceeded to ignore my friend and me while having what sounded like a personal conversation on the telephone.
I decided to wait it out, just to see what she would do. I was also curious to see how a second employee, who spotted us from the bottom of the stairs but didn't offer to seat us, would react.
Eventually, the hostess pulled the phone away from her ear long enough to tell us we could go ahead and find a seat near the bar. The second employee ended up walking away without saying a word.
So the lesson to be learned here is simple, folks -- if you're going to Bandito's to sit at the bar, just ignore the employee at the front door and walk right in.
ONCE YOU get down those stairs, there's a couple of choices when it comes to finding a place to sit. The bar is the centerpiece of the room, with about a dozen barstools surrounding it.
There are also four tables along one wall and another four in a nook off to the right. Televisions are well-placed here, giving you a good view of the game no matter where you choose to sit.
Unfortunately, the entire bar was full when we showed up, which meant our only seating option was up another set of stairs in an area that housed eight booths and 10 tables with a single television to watch the game.
As a few dozen people screamed at the televisions around the bar, we ended up watching the game alone after a handful of customers at nearby tables all paid their bills and left.
And a few minutes later, my friend and I ended up doing the same thing.
ALTHOUGH IT looked like the bar's customers, a mix of locals and military who looked to be mostly in their 30s and 40s, were enjoying themselves, I wasn't having much fun sitting in the boonies watching a television around the same size as the one I have at home.
I also wasn't impressed with the service we were getting, from the moment we walked in until the time we got our check.
Sure, our server tried to be friendly, but there was too much of a wait between drink refills, and I didn't appreciate the delay in ordering we had to endure while our server helped a manager pass out door prizes during halftime.
There were at least three other servers who could have helped out and taken our orders. Since the way to the kitchen was past our table, I watched them all walk on by. And we still had to wait.
It also wasn't cool for our server to block our view a number of times throughout the course of our visit. And it wasn't like he was waiting on another table -- the guy was taking a break to watch the game himself!
The kicker had to be when we were given our check with more than five minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. Sure, we were done eating our food, but did we say we were done ordering drinks from the bar?
If you've already got friends who are planning to go to Bandito's for some drinks, then you might want to consider joining them.
If the decision is yours, however, I'd suggest going to another one of the bars that are located in the immediate area. There just isn't anything that makes this place stand out in my mind. You'd be better off visiting Chez Monique or the lounge at Monterey Bay Canners, or even walking across the street to Chili's and just getting a meal there instead (although they don't show Monday Night Football live).
The Barfly is on vacation next week. His column returns Oct. 8.
E-mail Jason Genegabus at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions of neighborhood bars to visit.
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