Palenque Grill Brings Flavor to La Plaza Mall

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By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez

As originally published by Texas Border Business in newsprint edition August 2019.

What a great addition, Palenque Grill brings its truly authentic flavor to La Plaza Mall.  Juan Francisco Ochoa, better known as Don Pancho, has done it again with the strategic move of his eatery from its location at the Expressway and McColl to La Plaza Mall.

“Un rinconcito de nuestra tierra” (A little piece of our homeland), is how Don Pancho best describes Palenque Grill. What began as simply a possibility became a reality on July 31, 2005; that day was when the first Palenque Grill opened its doors in Laredo, Texas.

Now, on July 19, 2019, the Ochoa family celebrated the ribbon-cutting ceremony of their newest location. The event was a success, two members of Congress attended giving the celebration a nice twist.

Augie Lozano acted as master of the ceremony and introduced Congressmen Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez. Several McAllen city commissioners were also present. Rev. Msgr. Juan Nicolau led the prayer for the Ochoa family as well as all the guests.

When Don Pancho said, “First of all I want to thank God, our Lord, for allowing us to be here and to grow our business. Also, I want to thank everyone in the team; they make possible the growth of our family of restaurants.” He continued, “Everyone back there in the kitchen, cooking and sometimes even getting their hands burned, without them, this could not be possible.”

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Don Pancho said that he wanted to recognize them and thank them for everything they do for his company. He also thanked the city of McAllen for the great support they have given, as they continue opening restaurants. During his comments, he especially thanked the banks, because without them, he said, this would be a lot more difficult. 

“To our clients, we could say that they are the most important to us because without them we could not grow as we are doing it now.”

Don Pancho gave Maríajosé, his granddaughter the opportunity to say a few words.

“Good evening, everyone! It is an honor for me to be here because this is the third generation and we are working so hard. I want to thank everyone, family, friends, and our clients because without them we would be nothing,” Maríajosé stated.

Maríajosé is 22 years old and graduated in December 2018 from Texas Christian University (TCU). She helped her father Pancho Jr. with planning and preparing the opening of the new Palenque Grill at La Plaza Mall. Currently, she has been an intern with Congressman Cuellar’s office and preparing to attend Georgetown University to obtain her master’s degree. 

Don Pancho said, “My greatest satisfaction is to have my family working together, my wife, our six children, and our 18 grandchildren.” He said, “Even the little ones go on free days to cut some veggies, and we give them a dollar and they are so happy. They play that they’re ‘working’, we play paying them, but they start to care about the business.”

Congressman Vicente Gonzalez said, “I want to thank everyone who is here to celebrate this great businessman, who invested in our community and has created employment in our community. The Ochoa family also reflect the beautiful relationship we have with Mexico and the success that the families have achieved.” He continued, “When they emigrated to the US, they became good citizens and have helped built our Country.”

Gonzalez brought with him a Congressional file for Palenque Grill and the Ochoa Family. He said as he presented it to them, “They are part of the history of this nation, for being one of those who helped build our country and our region.”

Congressman Cuellar said he has known the Ochoa family for years. Don Pancho consulted with him when he wanted to open the first Taco Palenque in Laredo, Texas. Cuellar was also involved in the sale of the Pollo Loco rights in the United States. Don Pancho is the creator of Pollo Loco.

Cuellar said that Pancho came to him in 1987 telling him that he wanted to create a company here. Cuellar asked, “What do you want to do?  Don Pancho responded, “Well, a Mexican Restaurant.” 

“Ok, good luck!” Cuellar said. “After an impressive effort here we are, with someone who is doing a great job. Immigrants do help our economy; the Ochoa Family is a good example,” Congressman Cuellar stated.

Steve Ahlenius, president and CEO of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, who attended the ceremony said, “Don Pancho talked about the success of the business. He said precisely three key things worth reminding every business person about. Number one, there is a passion for customer service. Second, it is a family-run business; a family-run business is a hard thing to do, so I want to congratulate you Don Pancho. The third thing is to never stop growing. I think this is a prime example of a business that recognizes that growth brings opportunities.”

The president of the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Cynthia Sakulenzki, had a few words to say, “Last year the Ochoa family was nominated in the state of Texas, and the Ochoa Family won the Business Man of the Year for Texas.” That accomplishment and recognition add to the numerous achievements Don Pancho and his family have received.

Don Pancho describes Palenque Grill in the United States as “Un rinconcito de nuestra tierra” (A little piece of our homeland).The first Palenque Grill opened on July 31, 2005, in Laredo, Texas. 

 “Our food is 100% Mexican with the flavors of the North Pacific Coast of Mexico that includes Sinaloa, Sonora, North and South Baja California,” Don Pancho finalized.

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