Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Panchos Mexican Restaurant
717 North White Station

Don’t let the address fool you, this is the Summer Avenue Pancho’s, which I believe may be the last remaining Pancho’s in Memphis. While I try to eat Pancho’s cheese dip as much as possible, I haven’t set foot in a Pancho’s for several years.

So what was the occasion? My niece’s 8th birthday.

When we walked into the restaurant (at about 6:00 last Thursday), I immediately had a flash to the last time I ate there with my family. My dad was still alive, so it was at least 8 years ago, probably more. It was a Sunday afternoon and Los Cantadores were playing—a nice surprise since my sister and I knew the guitarist. It was some occasion—father’s day maybe.

I love the old restaurants on Summer Avenue that seem to be frozen in time. I’m glad that Pancho’s didn’t let Starbucks take over all of their stores, as this one truly is a gem.

Inside the main door is a little wishing well flanked by plastic (?) displays of the many dessert options. The restaurant itself is rather huge with a variety of seating options—a cozy table for two, alcoved booths, long tables that can be pushed together for large groups, and party rooms.

We had ten people—half of which were children. We could have easily fit at a long table, but were led to a party room where we could have invited my niece’s entire 3rd grade class. (Or is she in second grade?) We opted to stay based on the fact that we were segregated from the rest of the diners and could allow the monkeys a bit of room to stretch if necessary.

We had a really nice waitress who immediately brought us chips and dips—salsa and cheese—and took our drink orders. The kids got the standard Styrofoam with tops without my having to ask. They also got a placemat to color that included the kids’ menu. I didn’t get a good look at it, but it seemed to be the standard taco, burrito, rice, beans, etc. (I didn’t notice any chicken nuggets on the menu, but my memory is fuzzy.)

They also had a kid’s “create your own” dinner option, which is what my niece went for. I ordered Satchel & Jiro some chicken flautas off of the appetizer menu and included rice and beans in my “create your own” dinner to give to them. I also got a pineapple quesadilla (on the recommendation of my coach, Whorecules) and a shrimp dish that sounded much fancier than it actually was. (Picture a mini salad bowl type tortilla shell filled with rice and topped with three shrimp and some melted cheddar cheese.) The quesadilla was…interesting. Not sure I’d get it again. The flautas were a hit, as were the rice and beans. Honestly, I ate so many chips, I can’t say I was actually hungry when my dinner came.

The kids eventually took advantage of the large space we were in and began running around and playing various games involving rolling on the floor, hiding under tables, and fiddling with the door that separated us from the general population.

Jiro wanted to make several trips around the restaurant—one to look at the desserts, one to procure a mint, and finally one to visit the little boys’ room. This afforded me the opportunity to get a good look at the other diners and size up the place. At least half, if not more, of the tables had families sitting at them. And of the various employees I saw, none of them appeared to be of Hispanic origin.

After viewing the desserts in their static state a few times, I decided to rally the troops for a Summer Avenue Baskin Robbins nightcap. However, the waitress and a few of her coworkers brought my niece a little sundae and jello cups for the outher 4 kids. Then they sang her a happy birthday song, which was nice. My nephew gave Jiro his jello and ordered flan.

My total bill was $18.46, which included gratuity. Not too horrible, but not the best value ever. We all had a nice time and the service and ambiance were above average, so that was good.

It will be hard for me to choose Pancho’s over nearby Guadalupana in the future, but it could happen.

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