Texas Taco Spot Nourishes the Barrio Despite Pandemic

SAN ANTONIO — Breakfast tacos are a big part of Tex-Mex culture, but even this couldn’t avoid the effects of the pandemic.

  • Panchito’s Mexican Restaurant laid off 150 employees
  • The West Side location was built in the ‘50s

“There’s a lot of struggles that have happened, I mean our sales are down 70 percent, so our dining rooms closed. So all we have to work with is a curbside business,” Russell Reyes says.

That’s been the reality for taco spots in Texas, including Reyes’s business Panchito’s Mexican Restaurant.

“In about a week we’ve had to lay off 150 employees,” Reyes said as tears formed.  

Its West Side location, which neighbors the Cassiano Courts housing projects that were built in the early ‘50s to provide affordable living, is still thriving

“Financially they’ve struggled, but they still have been supportive of our family business,” Reyes says.“Financially they’ve struggled, but they still have been supportive of our family business,” Reyes says. “Yeah, it’s humbling.”

Geremy Landin usually orders bean and cheese and a Mexican Coke at Panchito’s.

Landin’s aunt introduced him to Panchito’s 11 years ago and he hasn’t stopped going since.

“She likes the menudo here. She likes coming on the weekends,” Landin says.

Like most of Panchito’s customers, his aunt grew up in the neighborhood.

“She grew up down the street. I think my grandma had like 14 kids and they all grew up close by,” Landin said holding his Mexican Coke.

Forty percent of families in this area are living below the poverty line, which is why the restaurant’s prices accommodate the community with deals like 10 tacos for $10.

“People depend on that. They have a family of four, five or six to feed and so to have that deal, it really extends that dollar,” Reyes says.

It’s a service that has been around since Reyes was a teenage dishwasher

“Our purpose is to be able to give back to the community that has been there for us over the years through thick and thin,” Reyes says.  

Jose Arredondo

Jose Arredondo is as San Antonio as they get. Born and raised on the city’s West Side, Arredondo has a connection with the community that very few have. Jose was an intern for Spectrum News from Fall 2016 through the end of Spring 2017. Prior to landing with Spectrum News, Arredondo was a writer at the San Antonio Express-News where he covered high school sports and hyper-local community stories.

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