If You Really Miss Pancho’s Mexican Buffet, The Full Experience is Closer Than You Think
If you're looking for delicious nostalgia, the full flavor of Pancho's is only a quick day trip away.
Shawn Calvit was headed back to Lafayette from the Houston area when he saw a familiar sign. It was enough to make him put a halt on his trip home and double back to that familiar logo that caught his eye as he drove by. Soon, Calvit pulled up to the Pancho's Mexican Buffet location off Gulf Freeway in Houston, TX.
Like many people from the Lafayette area, Calvit loved dining in at Pancho's when the Mexican restaurant was here in Lafayette. As a matter of fact, back in the 80s and 90s, there were over 50 Pancho's restaurant locations at one point throughout Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
The fare was Tex-Mex, but the biggest draw that set them apart from many other restaurants that served a similar menu was their all-you-can-eat buffet. But what made the restaurant even more unique was the waitstaff would bring out any additional food offerings from the buffet while the customers remained seated.
Buffet items included tacos, flautas, enchiladas, tamales, rice, refried beans, and other popular Tex-Mex food.
Perhaps the real reason most of us fondly remember Pancho's was the fact that customers had to "raise the flag" to signal to the waitstaff that your table requested more food.
When Calvit arrived at the Pancho's in Houston, it was one of the first things that he saw, and immediately, he was taken back to the days when he says he "lived off of the food from Pancho's."
While the nostalgia is cool, I asked him to be honest with me about the quality of the food to which he replied "hot and yummy."
Often, we remember things from our childhood through a far better lens than what we actually experienced but Calvit said the food was good enough for him to wish someone would open one back up here in Lafayette.
When I shared Calvit's pics with a few friends they were shocked to hear that there was a Pancho's as close as Houston, just about three hours west of Lafayette. Like many people, they thought all the Pancho's locations had been closed since long ago but the truth is, a few non-corporate locations chose to remain open after Pancho's decided to shut down operations in 2012.
While there are a few locations (in addition to the two in the Houston area) throughout Texas that can be identified with a quick Google search, there is also a Mexican restaurant in Kenner by the name of 2 Amigos Mexican Buffet.
The restaurant was started by two former Pancho's employees who figured since they knew the business "inside and out" that they would open up their own restaurant that allowed them to continue offering the same great food and service that their old customers loved about Pancho's.
Based on numerous reviews, customers have said that it's almost exactly like they remember the Tex-Mex from Pancho's, even down to the fla—well, it's actually a light. But it works just like the flag, letting the server know that you're ready for more delicious Mexican food.
So, there you have it. If you've ever craving Pancho's, you can get the flavor you desire within a few hours, whether you decide to go east or west.
Or make a stop the next time you're in the Houston or New Orleans area. Bon Appetit!