Daddy-O, the beloved, boozy Bedford Street hangout that fed the locals first-rate bar food for more than 20 years, closed soon after COVID hit town last spring. It’s a tough act to follow, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s the Den Hospitality crew, whose trio of downtown Garret bars are known for their strong drinks, fun menus, and lively ambiance. It’s a formula they are replicating here—just with an emphasis on 1970’s kitsch—at Bandits.
The Bandits vibe is kind of a diner-dive bar hybrid. Those classic padded swivel stools line the bar, Formica tables anchor the leather booths and rounded banquettes, and floor tiles are classic black-and-white. Nostalgia-tinged decor details include Farrah Fawcett on a skateboard, fringe lamps, a green-carpeted wall, weird vintage clocks, a rotary phone, random trophies, lava lamps, Rocco the raccoon, groovy wallpaper accents, and, most intriguing, a golden disco ball for late at night when it’s time to get down, boogie oogie oogie.
That covers the 32 seats inside, but the outdoor setup is nearly as elaborate, with a sturdily-built, well-ventilated enclosure that from the street reads as a roadside diner. And each of the “rooms” outside has its own speaker, piping in the Bandits soundtrack of radio hits and deep cuts from multiple ’70s genres. One of the mottos here is “Celebrating Nothing and Everything,” which is a pretty solid baseline for any decent local watering hole.
Most of the menu’s real estate is devoted to drinks, so let’s talk about that first. There are signature cocktails, created by beverage director Max Stampa-Brown and featuring the likes of the Bradshaw on Bedford, a lemon, rose hips, rhubarb, sundried tomato, basil, and vodka concoction which my Sex & The City-stanning companion sucked down, and the Bobby Wasabi, which I had in mocktail form (so: minus the sake and shochu) and proved to be both refreshing and sinus clearing.
There are frozen drinks, Everyday Tiki elixirs starring “all the rums,” and an array of highballs, wines of all hues, and beers on tap, in a can, or “dressed up” with adornments like mango coconut curry hot sauce, or white pepper herbed yogurt swirl. Alcohol prices range from $7 for a Narraganset on tap to $18 for a Jimmy’s Jungle Juice.
And don’t worry, there is plenty of food available to soak up all that alcohol. Four flavors of sauced-up Tots make for satisfying snacking, including the Halal Cart Tots, with hot sauce and lemon pepper yogurt swirl; the Dosa Cart Tots, with hot curry mango coconut sauce and sprigs of mint; and the Everything Bagel Shishito Peppers, complete with a “cream cheese schmear,” all of which deliver a unique take on that standard charred starter.
Daddy-O’s was renowned (by me) for their Buffalo-style chicken wings, and the Bandit Wings don’t even try to take on the legend. Instead, this lively platter of baked bird is covered with hot honey, scallion shavings, and a spicy white sauce. You can also get this dish prepared vegan, with Fried Cauliflower. The sandwiches and entrees section of the menu features a Jersey Ripper deep-fried hot dog, a Rice Crispy Fish dish, a decent doubledecker Smash Burger, and, the stealth winner of the night, a vegan Chickpea “Tuna” Melt.
Bandits is located at 44 Bedford Street, at the corner of Leroy Street, and, once expanded hours start in June, will be open on Sunday through Wednesday from noon to 2 a.m., and on Thursday through Saturday from noon until 4 a.m. (banditsnyc.com)