Take one step into Pancho Villa’s Bar & Grill Restaurant, and you will know you’ve found an authentic Mexican gem. The aroma of rich spices fills the two large dining areas and the Southwest décor rounds out the atmosphere that is set by the lively music.
Pancho Villa, on the 25th block of Nicollet Avenue, opened in June 1999 and was passed on to current owner Ivan Cardenas in 2000. Cardenas, born and raised in Ecuador, had been a server in the Minneapolis area when the shift took place. As the owner, he spends time in the kitchen as well as behind the bar, but he notes that the best part of his job is interacting with his customers out in the restaurant.
“I like working with the people and serving the people,” he said. “Bring good drinks, good service, good food . . . making people smile, that’s what I like.”
Good service is just one of three factors that Cardenas identified as the pillars to Pancho Villa’s business. The other two — good food and good prices — are equally as important.
The restaurant’s Mexican cuisine, made from original recipes, is set apart from competitors by the wide variety of seafood dishes they claim as their specialty. Crab, octopus, tilapia and a picturesque shrimp cocktail dish are just a few of the underwater options that add diversity and flavor to the menu.
Pancho Villa’s basics
Cuisine: Authentic Mexican, specializing in seafood
Price range: $6–$45; $13 average for meal and drink
Hours: 10 a.m.–1 a.m.
Address: 2539 Nicollet Ave. S.
The Pancho Villa Sampler, found in the appetizer section of the menu, features four colorful appetizers on one plate. Four flautas (tortillas that are filled, wrapped and then deep fried) and a large pork tamale are paired up with four chicken wings and two pork ribs. A crunchy tortilla topped with pico de gallo, refried beans, guacamole and hot sauce creates the centerpiece of the dish.
“You can try two American foods and two Mexican foods in one plate,” he said. But as to be expected in an authentic restaurant, the American dishes are given a unique spin. By kicking up some of the spices, Cardenas says he puts a little bit of Mexican in the American cuisine.
What does Eat Street mean to you?
For Cardenas, Eat Street allows a good experience for customers looking for variety. “You can find a lot of restaurants in one street,” he said. “You can find Asian food, Mexican food, Thai food, American food, sushi, everything.”
Additionally, the owner credits Eat Street as an ideal place for a business to get its start. “I’ve been here for many years and I’ve seen a lot of restaurants coming up,” he said. “The location here helps the business. It’s good.”