My family and I had dinner tonight at Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant, located at 844 Lincoln Way in downtown Auburn, California. We have been on a seemingly fruitless search for good Mexican food in the Auburn area since we moved here in March of this year. In truth, we had given up. We are natives of Southern California, where excellent Mexican food abounds, and wanted a restaurant that measured up to the establishments we’ve been visiting throughout our lives. It seemed Auburn was going to have nothing even relatively close to what we were hoping for. Tonight however, we drove through downtown Auburn on a whim, and found Pancho’s. After taking a look at the menu (at this point we are leery of trying any new Mexican restaurants in the area), we decided to go ahead and try it.
Service – First off, I will say that Pancho’s has the nicest servers that we have encountered in any restaurant since we moved to Placer County nearly 4 months ago. The employees we encountered were so extremely pleasant, that even if the food had been terrible I would have had a hard time saying anything negative about this place. Our server, a guy named Christian, was attentive, extremely nice, and greeted us with smiles and friendly words each time he came to our table. He refilled our chips, salsa, and waters without ever once needing to be asked to do so.
Prices – The prices at Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant are very fair, and actually very reasonable in comparison to other restaurants in the area. One of the reasons we had been leery of trying Pancho’s at first was because we didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for a mediocre meal simply because they were located in a trendy, downtown spot. My dinner, a 2 item combination plate, was $8.99. My husband’s meal was $11.99, and each of our 3 children ordered a kid’s plate, at $4.29 each, including drink. My husband and I each ordered a soda as well, which were somewhere in the ballpark of $2 each.
Food – I ordered what I always order at Mexican food restaurants, which is a combination plate with a taco and an enchilada. While the meal I had at Pancho’s was not the best I’ve ever had, it was definitely the best I’ve had since living in the Auburn area. Absolutely far better than El Portal Taqueria, which gets all the best online reviews for Mexican food in the Auburn area. I thought El Portal Taqueria was pretty awful, and would never go back there.
Pancho’s offers shredded beef, which for some reason is very hard to find in the Auburn area. In fact, the only other place I’ve found it is at Del Taco. When a fast food franchise is the only place in town that serves shredded beef, something is really wrong. While the shredded beef at Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant isn’t spectacular, it is pretty good, and I would order it again.
Atmosphere – Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant is colorfully decorated, and reasonably clean. The dishes and silverware appeared clean, and the linen tablecloths were clean, as well. All of the employees appeared clean and well groomed. The only issue I really had with cleanliness at Pancho’s were the bathroom doors. They had some noticeable grime, which, in my opinion, seems somewhat unacceptable in a restaurant. The bathrooms themselves however, were clean, and the cooking area is open to the dining room, which is reassuring to me. If a restaurant is willing to allow customers to see their kitchen and cooking surfaces at all times, they must be pretty confident about their cleanliness.
Hands down, the best thing about the atmosphere at Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant was the live Mariachi band that began playing in the dining room at 6pm. I had noticed an ad on the table that showed a photo of a Mariachi band and stated that music would be played from 6pm-8pm on Fridays. I’m not a lover of Mariachi, but I’m a home schooling parent who jumps at any opportunity for my kids to get some cultural exposure. The fact that we could feed the kids a good meal and fit in a live music performance for $40 certainly made the visit to Pancho’s a worthwhile experience for us.
I definitely feel Pancho’s serves the best Mexican food to be had in the Auburn area. El Portal Taqueria gets all the best reviews, but I just can’t figure out why. Maria’s tacos is said to be good, as is Café Delicias, however both have multiple online reviews of people becoming very sick immediately after eating at both locations. Additionally, there are reviews stating that it’s common knowledge that people get sick after eating at both locations. Personally, I’m not sure why they haven’t been shut down if this is true, but I am not willing to eat at either place just to see if the reviews are accurate. For safe, and tasty, Mexican food in the Auburn area, Pancho’s seems to be the best choice. Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant is open from 7am to 9pm, Monday through Saturday. To contact them directly, call (530)889-9200.