Created in the Corridor: Panchero's

Rodney Anderson, 49, founder and president of Panchero's Mexican Grill. Anderson opened his first Panchero's in Iowa City and now has seventy locations across the country.

Twenty-five years ago today, a college graduate from Chicago opened his first business in Iowa City with a hunger for success. But it was his taste for burritos that gave him the initial idea for Panchero’s, Created in the Corridor.

“From the first time one of my friends got their driver’s license when I was sixteen, we would drive to these Mexican restaurants in the Mexican neighborhoods of Chicago and eat these big burritos,” recalls Rodney Anderson, 49, founder and president of Panchero’s Mexican Grill. So when he earned his MBA, Anderson went shopping for his own location and found it at the corner of Clinton and Washington Streets right next to the University of Iowa. “We had looked at all the Big 10 schools and a few others and this was the best corner in town and it was available right when we wanted it and we jumped on it.”

Today, Panchero’s has seventy restaurants all catering to lovers of quick and quality Tex-Mex cuisine, like Sara St. John of Winterset who was taking a lunch break at the flagship location. “It’s easy to find good vegetarian and vegan options. It’s quick and healthy,” shared St. John.

“Our customers are our fans,” says Lynn Hennings, Panchero’s Director of Operations. “The quality of our food is outstanding. We don’t have any freezers. We don’t have any fryers. We don’t have any microwaves. It’s fresh, recipe driven and we make it every day.”

That includes Panchero’s fresh pressed tortillas, says Anderson. “The tortilla that everybody sees (made) right in front of them, we take the dough ball, we press it out. (And) if you’re a real burrito eater you like the fact that when we roll that up it seals itself; you don’t need a knife and fork to eat it.”

“It’s quick and close and good,” said Kate McFarland of Ainsworth who was sharing a meal with friends, including Gigi Flachman of Riverside. “I’ve never been here before and these guys all said it was great and so I came here to try it and they were right,” insisted Flachman.

Rodney Anderson has come a long way since first opening the Panchero’s in Iowa City. He’s made some changes along the way, not only to his logo but to his restaurant chain’s décor and the way Panchero’s prepares its products. And those changes have led to big things. “We are in eighteen states and we have twenty-four in Iowa. We’re out on the east coast with a great concentration of them, a lot in New Jersey.”

The one change Anderson wouldn’t make is where he started. “We are an Iowa company. This location downtown and Iowa City supported us very well as we got going. And being from Iowa has probably made us better for everywhere we go.”

To celebrate Panchero's 25th Anniversary, every location has been offering free queso to all customers today. You can find more information about the Coralville-based company HERE.

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