In the heart of Tucson, a familiar landmark underwent a transformation that caught the attention of locals and BBQ enthusiasts alike. After 40 years of operation, The Bashful Bandit, an infamous biker bar and Tucson institution, closed its doors. But from its ashes emerged a new concept, spearheaded by Tucson native Toby Kyte – Bashful Bandit Barbecue. Check out our review of the ‘Bandit’, which we believe will be huge hit.
Nestled at 3686 E. Speedway Blvd., the revamped space is set to become a haven for BBQ aficionados seeking a taste of old-school, mesquite wood-fired goodness with a Sonoran twist.
Like most Tucsonans, Kyte grew up driving by the ‘Bandit’ and it’s endearing mural. It sits askew on a busy stretch of East Speedway, the main thoroughfare across Tucson. Adjacent to an adult bookstore and Dutch Bros coffee, the new ‘Bandit’ embodies the funky Tucson vibe with an authenticity that’s rare to find. Kyte always saw the potential in the building’s worn charm, envisioning a space where his passion for BBQ and Tucson’s rich culinary heritage could converge.
According to Kyte, the concept of Bashful Bandit Barbecue is rooted in the idea of “backyard barbecue” – an experience where friends gather, beer flows, and the aroma of smoky meats fill the air. Inside, patrons will find a meat market-style setup reminiscent of New York delis and Texas BBQ joints, while outside, a spacious patio offers a front-row seat to the pitmasters’ craft.
Get the Bandit Tray for Breathtaking Brisket
At the heart of Bashful Bandit Barbecue’s menu lies the essence of Texas BBQ, with brisket serving as its cornerstone. Available in a lean or fatty cut, we went with the latter and were blessed with a serving that melted in our mouth. Kyte’s dedication to mastering this challenging cut reflects his Texas BBQ roots and sets the standard for the rest of the menu. However, the offerings extend beyond traditional BBQ fare, with creative delights like smoked jackfruit and poblano pepper-infused sausage links showcasing Kyte’s culinary innovation.
If you’ve got a hungry group of three or more, we recommend the Bandit Tray, which will allow you to choose a bit of everything, including all of the sides. The highlights include the fatty brisket, ribs, and chicken. Everything was moist and flavorful. But you can’t go wrong with the green chile pulled pork or chile relleno sausage. The Bandit offers smoked Jackfruit for vegetarians, which is almost indistinguishable from pulled pork and has a similar texture and flavor.
There are three barbecue sauces to choose from, but the mole BBQ sauce is the standout. The smoky mole flavor pairs exceptionally well with every type of meat, and we wanted to bring some home. The meats themselves are prepared dry, so you can add sauce as you like.
In keeping with Tucson’s vibrant culinary scene, Bashful Bandit Barbecue sources ingredients from local purveyors whenever possible. From tortillas courtesy of La Mesa Tortillas to specialty ingredients like Ombre Coffee Roasters beans and Agua Chiltepin peppers, each element of the menu reflects a commitment to supporting the community.
They’ve also got a full-bar that is open until 9pm, so if they run out of meat you can still sit and enjoy some sides and a drink.
Wood-Burning Offset Smokers Take Center Stage
The smokers are central to the barbecue experience, and Bashful Bandit Barbecue spares no expense in this department. Utilizing three 1,000-gallon offset smokers crafted from Austin Smoke Works, the restaurant pays homage to the craft barbecue tradition of central Texas. Customized by local artisan Alex from Desert Mountain Pits, these smokers are the backbone of Bashful Bandit Barbecue’s operation, ensuring each bite is infused with smoky perfection.
Every patron walks by the smokers before entering the Bandit and can see the hard work it takes to prepare the food using this method. Toby and his crew, which includes Jesse the Pitmaster, Ian, and Ivor, are happy to chat about their cooking techniques as well as anything BBQ or Judas Priest-related.
From brisket to borracho beans, every dish at Bashful Bandit Barbecue tells a story of passion, tradition, and the spirit of Tucson. Bashful Bandit Barbecue is a can’t miss culinary stop that will put Tucson on the BBQ map.