Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Delightful Clone Of Chipotle, Pancheros Delivers!

The Good: Good tasting food, Relatively nutritious, Inexpensive, Food is served hot!
The Bad: Light on side dishes/choices, Mediocre drink options
The Basics: Pancheros might not be the most original Mexican grill to hit the marketplace, but they do an impressive job at actually cooking the food they serve!

It seems lately whenever I am on the road for an event, I end up going to a Mexican grill. Ever since I first went to Chipotle Grill (reviewed here!), I seem to find new (to me) Mexican grills everywhere. When I went to a Janis Ian concert downstate (check out my review of that here!), I discovered yet another new-to-me Mexican Grill: Pancheros.

And I was pleasantly surprised. Unlike every other Mexican grill I have gone to, even the ones I have enjoyed, to date, Pancheros is the only one to actually serve the food actually at a temperature I could thoroughly enjoy it at.


Pancheros is a fast-growing restaurant chain. In Michigan, where I now live, there are already six and there are more popping up all over the Midwest of the United States. They seem to be direct competition with Chipotle in both style and substance.

Pancheros seems to be a reasonably fast food establishment that is catering to the conscientious carnivores of the United States. The dining rooms tend to have a very trendy, modern look and minimal southwestern d├ęcor. The colorscheme of Pancheros is yellow, blue and red inside. They feature booths and tables that were moderately comfortable.


Pancheros do not have waiters and waitresses. Patrons line up at a cafeteria-style assembly station and place their order with a “cook” who assembles the meal for them. These stations are very sleek, clean stainless steel hotpads where all of the fillings for the possible dishes are kept warm.

When one reaches the front of the line, one tells the assembler what one wants and they prepare the shell (burrito or taco or salad bowl) that is appropriate. That assembler walks down the line putting in ingredients as they reach them, confirming when necessary with the customer. They usually hand off the meal at some point to someone who puts on the toppings and folds it up and they pass the meal off to the cashier who checks the customer out.

At the location I went to, the servers were friendly, clean and easily executed all of my wishes. They all seemed to be enjoying their jobs.


Pancheros is essentially a Mexican food establishment. The dishes include burritos, fajitas, rice bowls, quesadillas, tacos and salads. The selection for these items is differentiated by the meat or vegetable one chooses to add to the dish and it is the price of the meat that determines the price of the dish. As a result, a steak burrito runs more expensive than a chicken one.

The meal I tried was a steak burrito with black beans, rice and cheese. At Pancheros, the chefs actually mixed up those ingredients before rolling it into the large flour tortilla. What that meant was that I did not have bites of segregated food. Instead of one bite with beans and another with rice, I actually had every bite with beans, rice, steak and cheese. Unlike every other Mexican grill I have been to, Pancheros is the only one where the result was the cheese melted into the burrito and that was a delightful change of pace for me.

As important, every bite of the burrito had steak in it. The steak was soft and flavorful. In addition to being well-spiced with minimal salt and a spicy rub, the steak flavor came out in every bite, which was a wonderful thing. Not a single bite was overcooked or dried out, so it tasted exactly like what it was supposed to; meat! The cheese finishes the flavor well, while the rice and beans were more generically salty than incredible.

The drinks, at least at the Pancheros I visited, were fountain sodas. In addition to bottled water and a drink or two by the bottle, the main options were Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Mellow Yellow, Fanta, and Hi-C.


Despite being a virtual clone of Chipotle, getting a meal that is consistently hot goes a long way with me and getting a meal with a drink for around $10, makes Pancheros easy to recommend and one of the restaurants I look forward to going back to!

For other restaurants, be sure to check out my reviews of:
La Senorita
Red Lobster


For other restaurant reviews, please be sure to visit my Food And Drink Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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