Handmade / Mexican-Inspired / vegetarian Food
in the Heart of East Van.
We are Jackie-Rae Avery and Aiyana Kane, friends, work wives, and co-owners of Bandidas Taqueria. We first met while completing our undergrads at UBC, after which we both took teaching jobs. Soon after, we realized we wanted to open a restaurant together.
A few ideas percolated, but ultimately the idea of a taco shop stuck, and in between marking and lesson-planning we started testing recipes. During our teaching breaks we travelled to California and Mexico for taco research, and returned with resignation letters and a determination to make this happen. “How to write a business plan,” was the first google item on our to-do list.
The planning process was dynamic and exciting. We interviewed any entrepreneur or restaurant owner who would talk to us, and new ideas often woke us up in the middle of the night. One of the most gratifying parts of the process was the dinner parties we threw in order to develop the menu. We cooked, friends served, and our first “customers” squeezed around tables crammed into our shared houses, willing to pitch in $5 and speak to things like tortilla quality or salsa flavour. As we developed the business (under the generous leadership of the East Van restaurant community), these parties ultimately gave our idea a home, and eventually we were ready to look for a space to call Bandidas.
Because no banks would lend us money, we combined our meagre savings and borrowed small amounts from numerous friends and family members. After weeks of long hours and a significant amount of donated labour from our family and friends, the original restaurant was designed and renovated. After we’d spent all our money and just days before opening, our front window shattered and our spirits were almost crushed. Jackie and her partner slept in the wide-open restaurant to keep watch and woke up to the surprise gift of an envelope full of cash--enough to fix the window—from three friends. Hope was restored!
We opened our doors in January 2009 to an immensely supportive community. The two of us worked 16 hours a day with a small crew (shout out to Morgan, Mike, and Mark), drowning in dirty dishes and running out of food every night. Despite our insistence that we could totally handle it, our friends jumped in to wash dishes, bus tables, and make tortillas. When we realized how desperately we needed sleep, we hired them, too.
We’ve grown significantly from that dear scrappy taco shop. Our menu is more extensive, but we still make everything from scratch--the limes for our margaritas are squeezed daily, and the tortillas are pressed minutes before they make it to your plate. We still feel the kindness and support of our community, but thankfully, we can now rely on our 40+ dedicated employees to keep the operation running smoothly.
Above all, the process of building Bandidas has shown us the importance of relationships and human connection. Bandidas would not exist without the generosity of our friends and wider community in those initial days. From the beginning, we’ve wanted to be more than a restaurant. We strive to be a welcoming space for all members of our society and serve healthy, abundant food at a reasonable price. As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to reinvest in the community that has given us so much. We regularly donate to local initiatives, host fundraisers for social justice causes, and hang the work of local artists on our walls. We'll continue to invest in the East Van community, and every customer who comes through our door makes this possible.
We’re grateful to all of you for helping us do this work.
Jackie & Aiyana