Pancho’s Mexican restaurant, a hidden gem in Long Beach

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When you walk into Pancho Mexican Restaurant you are always greeted with a smile.

Located off the Pacific East Coast Highway, Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant is just 1.5 miles from Long Beach State. This restaurant is affordable for students who have an appetite but are on a tighter budget. Most combo plates are around $10 and include an entrée with beans, rice, and a salad or soup.

It’s almost always a full house. the walls are decorated with awards the restaurant has received, the dim lighting and the smell of authentic Mexican cuisine surrounds you. The waitresses are constantly monitoring you to ensure that you receive quality service and that you receive your food in a timely manner.

It’s almost always a full house. the walls are decorated with awards the restaurant has received, the dim lighting and the smell of authentic Mexican cuisine surrounds you. The waitresses are constantly monitoring you to ensure that you receive quality service and that you receive your food in a timely manner.

According to Mel, a waitress who has worked at Pancho for 33 years, the menu hasn’t changed much and the same customers keep coming year after year for their favorite Mexican dishes.

“Nothing has changed, that’s why it’s the way it is, and that’s what makes it special,” Mel said.

Every year, breaking wave hosts the annual “The Best of Long Beach Winner” contest so the public can find the best restaurants, bakeries, and more.

In 2021, Pancho Mexican Restaurant is a 17-time gold winner for Best Mexican Restaurant in Long Beach.

Two of the 17 “Best of Long Beach Winner” awards went to Pancho. Photo credit: Julia Simpson

Throughout COVID-19, it was a time when restaurants were starting to close because they couldn’t get customers to dine inside. Meanwhile, Pancho’s remained open for take-out orders only.

“We were very lucky that many people came in for takeout orders,” Mel said. “People were very generous.

Regular customers have continued to order takeout and, thanks to their generosity to the restaurant, Pancho’s has weathered the toughest times of COVID-19 and is now open for orders inside, outside and take away.

One customer, in particular, Jaisey Higuera, said she and her family have been going to Pancho for ages.

Born and raised in Long Beach, Pancho’s has been her go-to Mexican restaurant and if she could recommend it to someone who’s never been there, she’d give it an “11 out of 10.”

“My favorite menu item is shredded beef taquitos with rice and beans,” Higuera said. “Also, I love the kids salsa with fries and won’t leave without ordering it.”

Mel said that in the 33 years she has worked at Pancho’s, the most popular menu item is shredded beef tacos. Higuera said the taste of the food never changed and it “hits every time”.

CSULB alumna Ally Arellano said Pancho’s is one of her favorite places to go between classes because of the welcoming environment and the authenticity of the food.

“I found myself there a lot,” Arellano said. “When I was a student at CSULB I always worried about how much money I would spend on meals, but every time I went I got what I paid for and always left satisfied.”

The busiest days are Friday and Sunday, so students can grab a bite to eat in the middle of the week for the most ideal time to avoid the queues.

Frank Flores, owner and creator of Pancho Mexican Restaurantdied amid the pandemic on August 8, 2020.

With constant visits from regulars, Pancho’s employees ensuring a comfortable experience, and the authenticity of the food, his legacy will live on.

Image of Frank Flores, owner and creator of Mexican restaurant Pancho's.
Frank Flores, owner and creator of the Mexican restaurant Pancho’s. Photo credit: Julia Simpson

Pancho Mexican Restaurant is located at 4925 Pacific Coast Hwy. in Long Beach. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and is ready to serve CSULB students.

For more information, visit their website.

For privacy reasons, interviewed employees requested that their last names not be included in the story.

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