Banko Cantina, a Mexican restaurant and tequila bar, will open to the public at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 12 at 114 S. Olive Avenue in downtown West Palm Beach. Originally home to the American National Bank, this 1921 landmark building was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
The three level 13,000 square foot restaurant features a rooftop bar, lounge, private dining space and 130 seats in the main dining room. The restaurant’s second floor was designed especially for special events, including corporate events and private parties. The 3,000 square foot third floor partially-covered rooftop features a 90-foot bar in the center, 14 foot ceiling, seating for 150, along with a kitchen serving lunch and dinner from a select menu. The restaurant also features 14 60-inch televisions throughout for sporting events.
Chicago restaurateur Sam Sanchez co-owns Banko Cantina and is closely involved in its management. Chef Seth Kirschbaum serves as the executive chef with Eddie Estevez serving as the general manager.
The restaurant features Northern style Mexican cooking and is inspired by Mr. Sanchez’ childhood in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Mexican cuisine consists of many different regional styles, depending on the climate of the area. Northern Mexico’s desert climate supports a large livestock population that led to the region’s meat-based dishes. The ranching culture’s historical use of wood fire and outdoor cooking is what developed the distinct smoky flavors that are the foundation of Banko Cantina’s extensive list of locally inspired tacos, steak and mesquite-grilled skewers.
Chef Seth Kirschbaum infuses his personal style and taste into the menu along with new tastes he gleaned during a recent trip to Northern Mexico as a visiting member of Colectivo GN, a group of talented chefs who specialize in Northern Mexican regional cooking. Banko Cantina will host a visiting chef series featuring chefs from various regions of Mexico.
The restaurant incorporates locally grown and harvested produce and fish when possible, varying with seasons. Desserts will be made in house. The restaurant uses authentic imported tortillas from the Northern region of Mexico.
In addition to its extensive menu, Banko Cantina features handcrafted specialty cocktails including Passion Fruit Sangria and Micheladas, local and Mexican beer, and more than 30 tequilas. Sanchez will host tequila chef tasting dinners as well as “tequila tasting 101” classes to share his knowledge of his favorite spirit.
Menu items include:
Small plates: Ceviche ($14), Flautas de Pollo ($12), Pulpo a la Brasas ($14), Mussels La Pachanga ($10), Mexican Crab Cake ($16), Spicy Tuna Shishito ($15), and a large variety of tacos and salsas.
Traditional Plates: Bistec a la Tampiquena ($28), Paella ($24), Enchiladas ($16), Fajitas ($18) and Local Catch en Hoja de Plantano (mkt).
Mesquite Grilled Skewers: Carne Asada ($14), Camarones con Tocino ($12), Camarones al Mojo de Ajo ($12), Pollo Asado ($11), and Vegetales ($10).
Desserts: Mexican Flourless Chocolate Cake ($10), Tres Housemade Ice Cream ($9), Pan de Elote ($10) and Churros ($8).
The menu also includes salads, soups and side dishes.
Banko Cantina’s interior includes elements of the historical building, including the original wood, used for the tabletops, as well as the chandeliers and tiles. Chicago artist David Bozic, who blends fine art with street-style, is handpainting his work onto the walls.
Mr. Sanchez moved to Chicago in the mid-1980s and is the co-owner who oversees all facets of his restaurant business, including both operations and business development for John Barleycorn, Moe’s Cantina, and Old Crow Smokehouse. Sanchez was recently awarded Restaurateur of the Year 2015 from the Illinois Restaurant Association.
Westchester, New York native Chef Seth Kirschbaum has served as a chef in South Florida for more than 10 years, including at Darbster Waterside Bistro and Sublime Restaurant. He launched his career in New York City, being named Head Chef of King’s Italian Restaurant at only age 17. His passion for cuisine began as a small child in his mother’s kitchen helping cook all types of cuisine, especially Italian. He is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan.
Eddie Estevez, a Miami native and son of Cuban exiles, joins Banko Cantina after serving for the last eight years as Executive Chef and General Manager of Cantina Laredo in Palm Beach Gardens and Hallandale. As a child Eddie lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Caracas, Venezuela and has also lived in New York and the Bahamas. He has his Associate of Fine Arts degree from Miami-Dade College and an Associate of Science from the Art Institute in Ft. Lauderdale.
The owners behind Banko Cantina also own John Barleycorn, Moe’s Cantina and Old Crow Smokehouse. Banko Cantina is located at 114 South Olive in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida.