Pancho’s, Atlanta GA

A few weeks ago, I went out on one of my early days, and arrived at a restaurant far too early. I don’t object to waiting around for fifteen minutes for a place to open – that’s when I can get some good reading done – but I’d neglected to confirm when the restaurant actually opened, and while fifteen minutes is no problem, an hour and fifteen’s a bit much.

On my way north up I-85, I passed, for what must be the thousandth time, Pancho’s, a very old Tex-Mex joint on the southern end of Buford Highway, whose back patio overlooks the interstate. It has been there for decades, serving up the same Tex-Mex staples as every other El-This-Los-That joint in town, but almost certainly doing something right, since they’ve been in business for thirty-some years.

As I sat in the parking lot pondering my lunch options, I suddenly found myself peckish for chips and salsa. This happens every three or four months, as regular readers might recall. So I made a beeline for Buford Highway, caught every light going south, and arrived just as Pancho’s opened.

This isn’t the sort of place to bring surprises on its guests. It’s the same dry chicken and tasteless ground beef as every other El-This-Los-That restaurant in the Atlanta area. If you have a hankering for it, as I do a few times a year, then it won’t technically disappoint, but it’s certain to leave you wondering why you crave it.

On the other hand, this table salsa is really good. Sure, the beef tastes like it came from the same Sysco Of Yucatan truck that services all of Pancho’s many peers, but they really do whip up something tasty for the chips. Add in a little presentation flair, some fine prices on their lunchtime specials, and some terrific service, and it’s easy to see how this place has been going strong for so many years. I’m sure their drinks help a lot – they have sixty-eleven varieties of Tequilas and boast a “monster margarita” that’s the size of three normal ones – and that big patio out back has seen thousands spend their weekend evenings in some kind of haze.

I left just as the lunch rush began. It’s a big place, but it fills quickly. The chips-n-salsa craving conquered, for now, I left assured that I wouldn’t want this sort of meal again for the next ninety days. It’s sort of like how Superman used to get three months’ respite after tricking Mr. Mxyzptlk back to the fifth dimension, but it leaves me wondering, the next time the craving surfaces, how I can possibly visit a new-to-the-blog restaurant and find something, anything, new to say about the El-This-Los-That experience. I’ll have to think about this.

Other blog posts about Pancho’s:

Atlanta Foodies (Feb. 7 2007)
Spatialdrift (Jan. 22 2012)
Eat Buford Highway (May 8 2012)

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