Columbia’s newest taqueria is a dream realized for owner Pancho Rutiaga. He has worked in the restaurant industry as a cook and a manager, but now he runs Taqueria Don Pancho with his son, Francisco. The two always wanted to run a restaurant together, but they didn’t have the opportunity until they received help from Daniel Abraham, owner of Loop Liquor & Convenience Store. Pancho got to know Daniel, they became friends and Daniel gave him the kitchen space at the front of his liquor store.

“This is my wish; I want to keep it close to me,” Pancho says. “It’s my dream. I want to take care of it.”

Established at the end of December 2018, Taqueria Don Pancho is just a few weeks old. Yet its flavors are inspired by culinary Mexican traditions established generations ago.

The menu, which is available on the taqueria’s Facebook page, lists seven meats that diners can choose to go into a burrito, taco, nachos, quesadilla or bean-and-rice plate. These meats are marinated for at least 24 hours and cooked fresh for each order – no warming trays or steam tables here. Discada, a blend of beef, pork, bacon, sausage, ham, chorizo and Mexican spices, comes from the Rutiagas’ hometown of Gómez Palacio, Durango. Francisco calls it the “meat-lover’s choice.”

The Rutiagas have experience with foods beyond their taqueria’s menu. They offer catering services and are willing to adapt the menu for the event. Pancho says seafood is his specialty, but it is too expensive to offer on the regular menu. They prioritize inclusive, low prices; they want to show everybody, regardless of income, what authentic Mexican food tastes like.

“We make good food for everybody,” Francisco says. “It’s like the Olympics; you show off your country. We want to show what Mexico has to offer.”

Don’t hold out for dinner; it is best to stop by Taqueria Don Pancho early in the day. Although the restaurant is open until 10pm on weekdays and 11pm on weekends, it's become so popular that it often sells out of food earlier in the day. Pancho says he has customers who come in two, three, even up to five times each week.

“I’m working hard for my customers,” Pancho says. “I know my customers are working hard at their regular job, and when they come, they want to eat good food.”

Taqueria Don Pancho is open Monday through Thursday from 11am to 10pm and Friday and Saturday 11am to 11pm.

Taqueria Don Pancho, 26 Business Loop 70 E. (inside Loop Liquor), Columbia, Missouri, facebook.com/Taqueriadonpancho74

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