Evansville’s New Bandana’s Barbecue Full of Smokey Goodness – Ryan O’Bryan’s Review
Slow cooked, smoke-infused meat, and a variety of sauces, what's not to like?
One of the perks of my jobs is that from time to time, people will bring me free food, or invite me and my co-workers to their establishment to eat for free in hopes that I will love it so much I'll want to tell everybody how good it is and encourage them to give it a try themselves by announcing it on the air, sharing it online, or both. The new Bandana's BBQ impressed me enough that they get both.
The Evansville Bandana's, occupy's the building formerly home to Firefly at 6636 Logan Drive in front of the east side Lowe's, is part of a chain that started in Arnold, Missouri and is one of 32 locations, a majority of which are located in Missouri. However they also have three locations in Iowa and two in Illinois, with plans for a third in Carbondale, and their first Kentucky franchise in Louisville. The new Evansville location will be their first in Indiana.
Although they don't officially open until tomorrow (Tuesday, September 18th) at 11am, members of the media were invited to eat lunch today, partly for the aforementioned publicity, and partly to offer the wait staff and cooks a "trail run" or "soft opening" as they call it in the restaurant biz. This gives them opportunity to work out any kinks before the general public swarms in and puts them to the real test.
Now then, let's discuss the main reason I went (and the reason they invited me in the first place), the food! Bandana's run their smokers 24-hours a day, meaning you can "smell that smoke" anytime you stop by. Actually, you can smell it before you even pull in the parking lot. The pork, beef, chicken, ribs, and sausage offered at Bandana's is done "southern style", meaning it is coated in a dry rub before being thrown on the smoker. There's no barbecue sauce added during the cooking process. Instead, customers are given five sauce options on each table.Personally, I prefer it this way. It gives me the option of trying a variety of sauces during one meal instead of stuck with just one the entire time.
The menu during this soft opening was limited to lunch portions, however they over a wide variety of options and portion sizes on their full menu. Looking to try as much as could, I went with the Pork & Beef lunch platter which offered six ounces each of their smoked pork butt and beef shoulder chopped up into bite size portion. The platter came with two thick slices of garlic bread and two sides. I opted for the barbecue baked beans and sweet corn.
The corn was sweet and had a nice crispness to it. The beans were served with bits of pulled pork mixed in and a thick, tangy sauce. However, I did mix in a little bit of their Kansas City Style sauce for a little extra tang.
Both the pork and beef were juicy and featured a nice, pink smoke ring around the edge. Even though I knew I was ordering the lunch portion, at first glance, I was a little disappointed in the portion size, but after consuming the entire contents of my plate, it turns out the portions were just the right size as I was plenty full after taking my last bite.
The sauces available on each table include their Original, a mustard-based sauce which turned out to be my least favorite of the five. Now then, I'm a fan of the more tomato-based sauces and have never really cared for the mustard-based or vinegar-based sauces. To me barbecue sauce needs to be thick with nice balance of tang and spice. While the Original wasn't bad, I had it in my head that I wasn't going to like it just by the looks of it, so the argument could be made that I never gave it a fair chance in the first place. Luckily, there were four others to choose from.
The Spicy was indeed, spicy. I like food with a little kick, but I do have my limits. I love original Tabasco and Frank's Red Hot, however you won't see me trying some ridiculous Man vs. Food challenge featuring food that has to be prepared wearing a Haz-Mat suit. Bandana's version of spicy had a nice balance of tang and heat, but it was more of a peppery heat and not a hot pepper kind of heat, if that make sense.
The Chicago Sweet was just that. A nice mix of tomato tang and a hint of citrus sweet mixed with sugary sweet. Sweet and Smokey offered a mesquite smoke flavor with a bit of brown sugar sweetness mixed in. My favorite was the KC (Kansas City) Style, which as I mentioned earlier, I added to my baked beans to give them just a bit more barbecue flavor. KC Style is a thick sauce with a heavy tomato flavor but also brings a nice touch of pepper to the party.
For desert, they offered their signature donut balls. These deep-fried morsels of awesome were coated in a nice amount of powdered sugar and tasted exactly like funnel cake. While they only gave me one to try, I could have eaten a dozen of them. They were that good.
All in all, I was impressed with the experience at Bandana's. The wait staff was friendly and more than happy to answer any questions we had or accommodate any request, like when my co-worker asked if he could get substitute the beef in his Pork & Beef Platter with Smoked Sausage. Our waitress stopped by frequently to make sure we were doing OK and to see if we needed refills on our drinks. I'm known to suck down more than my fair share of drink when I go out to eat, so if you want to keep me happy, make sure I have plenty of fluid.
I'll definitely be going back to Bandana's in the future as I really want to try their smoked sausage, chicken, and ribs. Plus, I HAVE to get more of those donut balls!