Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The thing about Pancho's...

Pancho’s is a Capetonian institution you absolutely must visit. As far as Mexican food is concerned, it has the best (and most value for money) nachos and quesadillas in town, and the margaritas are in close competition with the Fat Cactus’ for the number one spot. Some friends and I met up there on Friday night for some cheesy goodness.

Me! One of my favourite things about Pancho's is that if you go on your birthday they let you wear this outrageous sombrero and give you a free shot of tequila.

I have just one quibble with Pancho’s though. I have been eating there since my sister turned 21 (now more than 10 years ago), and as a loyal patron, I find it very sad that I am not able to eat there as freely as I once did. Booking has become mandatory (they will literally laugh at you if you try to walk in on a weekend night), and even booking has become difficult – a friend of mine tried to book for a Wednesday night on a Monday and was turned away. I booked a large table (20 people!) for my birthday last year, weeks in advance, and was phoned days before the date by the manager, who complained that whoever allowed me to reserve a table for 7pm went over his head, as they only do 6 and 8’o clock seatings on Fridays. Even though I stood my ground, and said it was hardly my problem if someone at their end made a mistake, the experience left a bad taste in my mouth. Then the manager had the cheek to request confirmation of my booking on the day via SMS!

It is a great shame to me that when restaurants become successful they become unattainable to walk-in customers – who are usually responsible for the restaurant’s success anyway! A reservations-only policy should be the reserve of fancy establishments, like La Colombe or Maze. Pancho’s is not an upmarket eatery, it is your friendly neighbourhood Mexican joint, and should remain accessible to its clientele. Being told rather officiously that you have to be out by 8pm and that your table WILL be given away if you are 15 minutes late puts a serious dampener on the experience.

Pancho’s could learn a thing or two from Royale Eatery on Long Street. There has been a lot of hype about it, and it is ALWAYS busy, but the entire downstairs section, which is very much the larger portion of the restaurant, cannot be reserved, and is exclusively for walk-in customers. Even so, you are never guaranteed a table unless you book, but at least if you give it a try and are turned away, you feel like you were in with a fighting chance. A walk-ins-only section I think should be compulsory in every restaurant.

FYI: Pancho's can be found at 127 Lower Main Road, Observatory. Call them (really, call them!) to make a booking first on 021 447 4854.

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