Banditos works out kinks during restaurant’s first weeks in Myrtle Beach

With just about two weeks under their belts, the employees at Banditos Restaurant and Cantina are working on learning their way around the kitchen and finding their niche.

The Mexican restaurant opened Aug. 6 and though there were no working phones on site as of Friday, business has been surprisingly steady, said owner Chip Smith.

“We’ve been consistently busy – busier than expected,” he said Friday afternoon. “Especially for it to be what we’re calling a ‘soft opening’ and not much advertising.”

Smith said part of the traffic could be because there are very few food options on Ocean Boulevard that aren’t hot dogs, corn dogs or hamburgers.

“Mexican food is the most popular food in the United States right now,” he said, adding that it makes sense people are filling his restaurant – even seeing some return customers within the first 12 days.

Smith made a deal with the City Council to extend the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk by about 425 feet to include Banditos. He said they hope to have the extension complete by March 2013.

“The city approved the plan just about a week and a half ago,” he said. They hadn’t started requesting bids for the project yet. “We want to get through hurricane season and the goal is to have it ready by March 1.”

Banditos will pay for the construction of the extension, but it will be owned and maintained by the city.

“Our responsibility is to get it built and to get it built to their specifications,” Smith said.

Smith said he knew the council would like the idea of extending the boardwalk, which currently runs about 1.2 miles. He credited Mayor John Rhodes as an instrumental part of the process.

“I think there’s no question that the success of the boardwalk has been proven. So a 400-plus foot extension is a very smart move for Banditos to give access to the restaurant from the Ocean,” Rhodes said. “I’m glad they see the advantage of having the extension There’s nothing negative about it.”

Banditos isn’t yet operating at full capacity, seating no more than 200 guests in the restaurant that can hold 268, Smith said.

“We’re limiting seating until we get comfortable with the kitchen,” he said.

Smith said the restaurant also will soon feature a stage and oceanfront bar to go along with its downstairs patio.

Banditos offers live entertainment daily – with a local South Carolina band performing every afternoon and more music on Saturday and Sunday nights. The bar boasts 100 types of tequila and several margarita options.

And Smith said the shrimp and crabmeat burrito was his favorite thing on the menu.

“Split it with someone,” he said. “It’s huge.”

For now, Smith said he and the staff still are tweaking small things with the building and figuring out what works best.

“Then we’ll find our niche,” he said.