“We still use all Mexican ingredients, but it’s Sinaloa style; more grills, more seafood, less spicy.”
This month’s edition of Let’s Eat features North Bay’s only off-chain authentic Mexican restaurant, run by a husband-and-wife team serving fresh food daily.
Maria Rubio and her husband Jose Hidealgo opened Mr. Pancho Mexican Food three years ago.
Rubio says their food is slightly different, mostly because they use the style of cooking familiar to his hometown in northern Mexico. Although the food is not considered spicy, the heat can be turned up for people who like to kick their meal up a notch.
“Every day we make everything from scratch and it’s from Mexico but it’s from Sinaloa. I’m from northern Mexico so it’s kind of a unique flavor,” Rubio explained.
“We still use all Mexican ingredients, but it’s Sinaloa style; more grill, more seafood, not as spicy. So it’s a bit unique. There aren’t many places even here in Ontario for Sinaloa. I think we have the only one. Nothing comes frozen.
The couple lived and worked in North Bay for a decade before opening the restaurant.
“We dreamed of opening a Mexican restaurant and we opened the restaurant three years ago,” Hidealgo added.
“It was really well received, especially because our food is authentic Mexican cuisine. At first, we were worried about having to adapt our food so that people would like it, but we made the decision to serve our food as authentic as it is, so it was a huge decision that we made, to introduce our Mexican culture to the people of North Bay, and we were very well accepted.
Everything is prepared fresh with flavors as close “as we can come home to,” Hidealgo said.
“We work with local farmers to get our products and we try to support local businesses by getting our meats from North Bay. We use local products to make our salsas and all our dressings.
The menu offers a wide selection of Mexican dishes, including two-cheese totopos, sour cream, pico de gallo, jalapeno, guacamole, and refried beans. Eat it as is or add meat to the meal. Other dishes include, but are not limited to, hard or soft tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and picadillos served with rice, salad, and corn torillas.
Many people enjoy combo platters, including Mexican-style pork cochinita pibil-pull in a taco, quesadilla, or tostada.
“The food that most people love is our burritos. Our burritos here are huge. Sometimes it can be a bit difficult for one person to finish, but that’s how we prepare our food. The second is our tacos. Our tacos are made with soft corn tortillas. We put picco de gallo and we use lettuce. And all the meat we put in the tacos we make here. We grill it here and we marinate it here. It’s really fresh,” Hidealgo explained.
“And a huge plate is the Fiesta Box that we started making last year around this time and people liked it, so we’re going to keep making it. It has gorditas, flautas, quesadillas, burritos, guacamole, pico de gallo and tortilla chips.The big one will feed four people.
Another favorite is their quesabirria.
“It’s a corn tortilla with shredded beef and cheese on it. We put some cilantro and green onions inside and the salsa is hot salsa and homemade lemons. “
The house specialty that special people gravitate towards is their Three Carnes plate served with three choices of meat, a side of rice, salad and corn tortillas.
The North Bay Restaurant opened its first location at the bottom of Algonquin Avenue just a year before the pandemic hit.
“Before the pandemic we were in our freshman year so we were doing normal business like we were very busy during lunch hour with people working downtown and then when the pandemic hit there was huge impact for us,” Hidealgo explained.
The owners have enjoyed continued success after reinventing their business, focusing more on takeout as they adapt to running a restaurant under strict provincial health guidelines.
“During the first week, we were really scared because we had just started our business, but we made the decision to continue. The quality of our food is fresh food, but at the same time, we can prepare it very quickly and we can turn our food into fast food. The transition was really quick. Within a week, we managed the transition and continued with takeout so people could enjoy the same freshness and quality of food, but takeout,” Hidealgo explained.
“Having made it two years into a pandemic has given us the strength and confidence to keep racing and we have huge support from the North Bay community and our dream is to grow.
Their dream of owning a second restaurant is coming true, with the opening of a new location at Northgate Shopping Centre. The expansion will be a smaller version of the existing restaurant, with the same detail of authenticity, freshness and quality that people rely on. Northgate Shopping Center food selection will be limited.
“We’re going to have tacos, burritos and tostadas, but if you want to get more plates, it’ll be from here,” Hidealgo said, referring to the Algonquin location.
The couple worked hard to get where they are today.
“We are proud to have succeeded here and we are proud to be part of the North Bay community and we see the opportunity to secure another location in the Northgate Shopping Center and so we have made the decision to continue and grow no matter what is going to happen with the pandemic because we are people who like to work. We are capable of taking a risk. But we’re really confident with our food, our product, and we’re really confident that we’re going to continue to get support from the community. So it’s something that’s going to get us through these pandemic times,” Hidealgo said looking forward to the future.
“The support and love from the people we treat here as friends, the very good friends we make here are important to us. And we have families who regularly come to eat here so it gives us hope to continue. This location will work as always, but the other mall location will give us a different type of customer.
With restaurants reopening, they are seeing people returning to the restaurant to dine indoors.
“We also have to adapt to this, just like we have to put our tables aside and we have to take measures to be safe while we work here and to be safe for customers,” Hidealgo said.