Chili and Cheese to Flow at Pancho's

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Pancho's Mexican Buffet, a take-no-prisoners extravaganza of Mexican-style food, is back in business in Metairie in a new location after a long post-Katrina hiatus.

The restaurant is at 100 N. Labarre St., near Airline Drive, and will open to the public next Monday, March 30. Two opening parties are scheduled this Friday. Tickets required for each appear to be rapidly selling out.

To its fans, the name Pancho's is synonymous with an exuberant excess of flautas, tacos, chili rellenos, cheese enchiladas and sopapillas or soft serve ice cream for dessert, with the option to pour chili and cheese sauce on just about anything short of the soft drinks and with the miniature Mexican flags at each table, which customers would ceremoniously raise up a mini flagpole to signal servers that they wanted more food from the buffet line.

The quantity over quality formula at work here repulses some people, but it clearly strikes a chord with others and Pancho's in particular has garnered a fervent following. Just ask these 2,500+ folks.

The chain started in El Paso, Texas in 1958, and now has 20 locations in five states. One of the early expansion sites was New Orleans, where the restaurant was originally located in the Central Business District and built to resemble a Mexican town square, complete with a fountain gradually filling with pennies tossed in by kids and faux house facades lining the walls.

It later moved to Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Metairie, where it was damaged during Hurricane Katrina and didn't reopen. Pancho's pre-storm location was converted into a Circuit City store.

The new restaurant took over the former Ho Ho Super Buffet, an Asian-style all-you-can-eat place, and has even kept the "Super Buffet" part of the building's façade intact under the familiar Pancho's logo.

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