You wouldn’t expect a restaurant review to be controversial, but when The Lost Ogle published my nostalgia-filed take of the long-suffering Mexican buffet chain Pancho’s lone Metro location, battlelines were drawn, with one-half of the readership fondly remembering the eatery from their youth and eager to try it again, and the other a bunch of low-rent contrary Bourdainabes who likened the buffet’s cuisine to committing acts of coprophagia.
When I heard the news this weekend that they had shuttered their doors for good, I was left in a bit of shock. Calling their office line to confirm was no help, but this post on their Facebook page pretty much summed everything up:
“UNFORTUNATELY we were Pancho's in Oklahoma City's last customers this evening. They are closing their doors after they took our empty chip basket away! Thank you to the owners and managers George and Epsi Gomez for an incredible last meal. We hope that you open somewhere else in the Oklahoma City area. LOVED THE FOOD AND EXPERIENCE!” – Keith Dobbs
In my review, I wrote about my long, near-romantic history with the place and won’t repeat it here, but, thankfully, since then, I was able to make a few more trips through the line, introducing various friends to the joys of raising the flag for unlimited selections of Tex-Mex goodness.
It was the very last trip, however, that really exemplified what was so special about this location: after an afternoon of shopping at Old Paris Flea Market, myself, a single dad friend of mine, and his three year old, decided to have dinner there. Tired and ready to get home, the toddler was rambunctious and on the verge of a full-blown tantrum, as they usually are after a full day of activity.
As we were about to leave to avoid a scene, Mrs. Gomez and her granddaughter offered to watch the kid while we ate. As my friend and I enjoyed our cheese enchiladas and flautas and chile verde, they actually played with him, chasing a ball around the closed off dining area, laughing and never once acting put out about it. They truly treated us like familia.
It was perhaps the greatest act of customer service either of us had ever been privy to in our consumerist lives. Try to top that, Ted’s.
Little did I know that the last time I raised that flag for sopapillas that it would be the last time for me to do so in Oklahoma City. While there are still a few locations in Texas, it’s truly a bittersweet passing, one that truly exemplifies the adage “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”
Vaya con Dios, Pancho’s…vaya con Dios.
Let's make some new Tex-Mex memories together. Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler.