The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Pancheros celebrates 25 years in the Iowa City community

Pancheros has grown a lot in the past 25 years, but their simplicity and connection to their communities has stayed through it all.
The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep
Community members wait in line in Pancheros on Tuesday. Pancheros has celebrated its 25th anniversary all month with promotions such as free queso on its anniversary and $1 burritos at its downtown location Tuesday. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

With classes starting at the University of Iowa, Pancheros aimed to ease the stress of class — and celebrate its 25th anniversary — by offering burritos at a fraction of the normal cost.

Every school year on the first Tuesday of classes, Pancheros offers $1 burritos and free merchandise from 2 to 4 p.m.

“It’s a great way to introduce new people and to celebrate the old people on campus,” said Rodney Anderson, the founder of Pancheros.

By 2:15 p.m., the line had stretched to almost the entire length of the block, with each person waiting eagerly for her or his $1 burrito. Employees handed out water to combat the heat and keep the crowd from blocking too much of the sidewalk.

“It’s cool that they’re giving out $1 burritos,” said sophomore Daniel McNamara. “I didn’t think the line would be as long as it was, as I was walking down I was just laughing more and more.”

This may be a beginning of school tradition, but this year marks a special anniversary.

On Aug. 14, 1992, Anderson opened a small Tex Mex restaurant in downtown Iowa City named Pancheros. His original vision was of a Chicago-style taqueria, but it’s changed quite a bit over the years. Now the Pancheros franchise is wildly popular, swelling to 67 locations in 19 states. Another restaurant was just opened on Aug. 22 in Sioux Falls, Iowa.

“It all started here,” said Anderson. “This downtown shop is the original and the base of everything.”

Like the first Pancheros, the next 10 locations were opened in college towns just like Iowa City. Anderson was originally focused mainly on college students, but as the years went by Pancheros began popping up everywhere.

In 1998 the chain revamped business by installing dough presses to fresh-press their tortillas, and in 2007 introduced the famous “Bob the Tool,” used to mix the burrito ingredients before it is rolled so they’re evenly placed within the burrito. This is one of the main reasons that Pancheros’ burritos are so popular.

Although the restaurant has grown into a national chain, Anderson is still keeping it true to its original simplicity.

“We’ve grown and learned quite a lot along the way, but we continue to try to keep it a simple operation,” said Anderson.

And keep it simple they have, with having only four beliefs when it comes to making the perfect burrito: each tortilla is unique and fresh, they won’t break, no fryers or freezers are involved, and using Bob the Tool to mix everything up to perfection.

Along with keeping it simple, Pancheros has also strived to become part of their communities. There is an employment position at Pancheros called Burrito Relations, and they are in charge of catering and fundraisers. They are involved in many high school activities, and help out with booster club meetings, athletic teams, and clubs.

“We get tremendous support from the kids and the townspeople,” said Anderson.

Nancy Bird, the executive director of the Iowa City Downtown District, believes that Pancheros, as far as a business downtown, is one of their models, and is glad to have the original location of such a popular business call downtown Iowa City home.

“They’re a cornerstone of downtown,” said Bird. “It’s quality product, and it’s a foundation in the community.”


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About the Contributor
Brooklyn Draisey
Brooklyn Draisey, Projects Editor


Email: [email protected] Brooklyn Draisey is the Projects Editor at The Daily Iowan. She is a senior studying journalism and entrepreneurial management. She has worked as a news reporter, news editor, and managing editor during her time at the DI. She enjoys writing long-form, in-depth features.