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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
PANCHO'S MEXICAN BUFFET
Many Tex Mex food fans are gonna laugh at me over this one. Hey, get your own travel site!
The year was 1972. I was just a pup in the radio news business and we had just moved to New Orleans. I was making an incredible $600 a month! On a salary like that eating out is difficult yet I kept seeing ads in the Times-Picayune newspaper about a place in downtown New Orleans called "Pancho's Mexican Buffet." It boasted such items as beef enchiladas, sour cream enchiladas, cheese enchiladas, tacos, guacamole and a whole bunch of other items for just $1.49. At the time we were totally unfamiliar with Mexican food but the price was so tempting I began asking people around the radio station about it. They all said the same thing: "It's not bad. Actually it's pretty good and a great value."
So we gave it a try. You entered the restaurant and then formed a long, winding cue. It was always crowded. As you followed along in line there were Margarita stations so you could sip a cocktail as you snaked along. Once you got to food station it was kind of like a cafeteria only servers kept your large plate behind the glass. You just walked along pointing to what you wanted to be placed on your plate. Then at the end of the line, you gained possession of the plate and headed off to a table.
If you wanted more food after the first round, you just raised a little Mexican flag on the table. A waitress would notice and make a beeline to your table to ask what she could get for you. Then she'd return with the additional items.
The food was always filling and good. And as we moved to new cities in the radio business that also had a Pancho's, we were always anxious to return to our meager roots.
The New Orleans outlet is now gone but they do have one in the 'burbs. And you'll find them throughout the west and southwest. I think the last time we dined at one in Dallas a few years ago it was $6.99. Still a good value and not bad food. If you've got a big appetite and you're on a budget, this is definitely your kind of place. It's definitely our kind of place because it kept us full when we were running on empty, financially!
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