Los Panchos was a famous trio of guitar strumming latinos playing romántico ballads.
This Mexican veteran of Vienna’s restaurant scene has a story behind it more bizarro, than romántico involving a Greek Cypriot, a Swedish lady and a Mexican who claimed he was a cook, who later revealed he wasn’t, but still proved a talent with Mexican comida. And even though this loco Mexicano left a long time ago, Panchos still serves up his original recipes and has rooted itself as a favourite amongst 2nd district dwellers, and those with the hankering for a burrito.
This may have something to do with the charismatic owner, Yiannakis Martezos, who’s showing us family photos while we’re asking questions trying to work out how a Greek came to open a Mexican restaurant in Vienna during the early 90ies. The story hasn’t got much of a plot, however, and can be skipped so we get to the food quicker.
Straight-forward Mexican food make up the menu, while the bar that straddles the big smoking, and equally as big non-smoking area, has earned itself a name for its cocktails – the well-made sour and sweet Mojito made our bar stool seem taller.
Dishes on the food menu are the common taco and tortilla platos that a Mexican eatery has away from home, the most popular being the meat-stuffed, salsa slathered burritos. Yiannakis’ inherent Greek respect for quality meat is apparent in the filling – it’s Argentine beef. tacos, enchiladas, flautas and quesadillas all make an appearance, alongwith a few tex-mex dishes that have snuck into the menu.
And the question on every Mexican kitchen fan’s lips – how’s the guacamole – can be answered with a greedy swoop of a taco chip.
According to Yiannakis, the kitchen’s secret is simple – simple recipes, produced at a consistently good standard from quality ingredients, by quality cooks.
We spot only two sombreros and the obligatory piñata in the kitsch-free, plain interior design of the place, while the low candle light lighting over the scuffed wooden tables make all the conversations happening over them seem shady.
Including our chat with Yiannakis, in which he points out the numerous Stammgäste (translation: regulars), including some that have been coming for years. And the way we see it, if your Stammgäste return as often as that unwanted hair on your big toe, then you’re doing something right.
“Some of them are the children of the people that used to come in when we first opened, it’s incredible,”says Yiannakis. “Some people that come here more often than me! It’s like their 2nd living room, they feel comfortable here, I think.”
We feel comfortable here. Even after we slop some of the salsa from our Burrito in our laps – but than again, shame is a word we took to like a piñata a long time ago.