If an endless supply of tacos, guacamole, and enchiladas doesn't sound like heaven to you, I don't know what does. One Texas-based Mexican Restaurant brought this dream to reality by creating an inexpensive but delicious buffet, where you could gorge yourself to no limit on Tex-Mex. Pancho's Mexican buffet was the place to go throughout the 80's and 90's.
The Creation of Pancho's Mexican Buffet
This haven of Mexican food was created in 1958 by Jesse Arrambide, Jr., in El Paso, Texas, with the goal of providing a welcoming and indulgent place that families could go out to eat while staying within their budget. As Pancho's Mexican Buffet tells it, "for the first time, families could eat to their heart's content from a lavish spread of delicious Mexican food. Pancho's combines the delight of an all you care to eat buffet with the hospitality of a full service restaurant."
Mr. Arrambide Jr. learned how to make Mexican food from his mother, and he gained lots of experience cooking for a crowd while serving in the navy during World War II. These skills led him to open a buffet-style restaurant. After a few years of operating his restaurant Los Bandidos De Carlos & Mickey's Restaurant, he began to focus on his dream of founding a Mexican buffet.
Pancho's Buffet Fare
Pancho's serves tacos, enchiladas, burritos, flautas, tamales, refried beans, nachos, guacamole, and many other yummy Tex-Mex dishes. Most of their dishes are self-serve in the traditional buffet style, but some are brought over by waitstaff. Pancho's also offers takeout and catering along with dine-in service! You can check them out for yourself at www.panchosmexicanbuffet.com.
Over the years, this beloved all-you-can-eat buffet spread to Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Louisiana, bringing inexpensive Mexican food to customers throughout the South and Southwest. At the height of their success in 1982, there were 55 Pancho's Mexican Buffet restaurants.
Good Food and Good Times
This haven of Mexican deliciousness is famous for the practice of "raising a flag" to ask for more food; every table has a small flag decorated with the colors of Mexico and the image of Pancho, the mascot. To add to its hospitable atmosphere, the dining area is typically decorated with two Spanish sayings on the walls- "Mi Casa es Su Casa" (My House is Your House) and "Panza Llena, Corazon Contento" (Full Belly, Happy Heart).
For a short time, there were also Pancho's products that one could buy to make their own Mexican dishes like tacos and sopaipillas, along with artisan goods like pottery and toys. The best product was the selection of piñatas, which could be bought and used for fiestas and other get-togethers!
Unfortunately, starting in the 2000s, the owners of Pancho's began closing stores due to poor performance. Then, in 2012, Pancho's corporate shut down all operations for unknown reasons, and the Mexican buffet didn't come back for two years. Currently, only two of these legendary buffets remain, both in the Houston area. Although their glory days are over, the last two Pancho's Mexican Buffets continue to bring joy to all in the form of tasty buffet-style Mexican food!