Hole in the wall review: El Panzote: No chairs, only food

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At El Panzote, the restaurant is also a bakery. An assortment of baked goods lines the wall in the quaint, small restaurant and the ceilings are decorated with colorful piñatas. Photo by Mackenzie Gripe

By Jon Parton

At El Panzote, the restaurant is also a bakery. An assortment of baked goods lines the wall in the quaint, small restaurant and the ceilings are decorated with colorful piñatas. Photo by Mackenzie Gripe

On a tiny corner in Olathe rests a tiny building. El Panzote, located at 1100 South Payne St. in Olathe (near Old Highway 56 and South Payne Street), isn’t much to look at.

 One step inside and I could find nothing resembling a chair or table. There’s no room for such luxuries with such limited space. El Panzote is a place where you get your food and then get the hell out. Tables? Seating? The heart of the bakery and restaurant is the food, not the size of the establishment.

 It’s a good thing the food is unbelievably good. Once inside, I saw a crowded building filled with an assortment of baked goods displayed behind glass doors, small coolers crammed with Mexican beverages and a food cart that contained all the ingredients to make burritos and other specialties.

I was welcomed by the staff as soon as I walked in. There’s a level of service you get at a mom-and-pop store that you just can’t find anywhere else. There are no wage slaves here, just honest folks who truly appreciate people who choose to visit their business. They answered all of my questions regarding different pastries and what ingredients went into their food.

For $5, I was able to buy a massive pulled pork burrito. For someone who has been to Chipotle, I was amazed by how El Panzote’s burritos make Chipotle’s seem stunted and diminutive. This monstrosity was loaded with pork, Spanish rice, refried beans, peppers and cheddar cheese. The friendly staff member constructed it on the spot, making the most of the little food cart she had to work with.

 For a big guy like myself, it’s a true testament to a place when I can’t finish a meal. The flavor of green bell peppers and onions mixed well with the spicy pork. The burrito had the right amount of heat to it, not bland but not reaching a point where I wanted to drink something cold after every bite. Rather than being served from a restaurant, I felt like I was eating at a neighbor’s; a neighbor who liked me because I picked up my dog’s poop from their lawn.

In the interest of being thorough, I also picked up a corn muffin from the bakery side. The muffin was unique in that it was cakelike while retaining the flavor of more traditional cornbread. It contained a small amount of sugar while managing not to be overly sweet.

I indulged in a bottle of non-alcoholic sangria, a good pairing with the meal. For $8, I had a more satisfying meal than what I could have gotten at a sit-down restaurant. I recommend giving El Panzote a try, especially if you like getting your money’s worth.

Contact Jon Parton, managing editor, at jparton@jccc.edu.

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