Pancho Villa Market

This board is pretty dead, but for anyone still reading it, Pancho Villa Market was closed yesterday by the Department of Environmental Health.

Very sad.

Why is it very sad?

Because in terms of what that market sold, it was a real gem. I like
the place. So, it’s sad that it allowed these kinds of outrageous
things to go on unchecked, and bring about a legal action. They
brought it on themselves.

I’ve never been to Pancho. How does it compare to Northgate?

It’s much smaller than Northgate, but packed with lots of interesting stuff, and a good selection of produce and chiles. It’s kind of between Carnival and Northgate. Parking can be a challenge.

At one point PV was owned by the Bony family (Sprouts & Windmill Farms), it’s not clear if it still is but it has many of the Bony family markers, i.e. big produce department, small grocery department and selection, meat market and wide dairy selection. At Pancho Villa they also have a very large bakery section, and in-house tortillaria, a fairly large frozen section with Latin ingredients, and a prepared food deli that has expanded quite a bit from what it was when if first opened.

They were (are?) making flour tortillas from scratch in their produce department that were incredibly good. I prefer the bolillos and masa at PV to Northgate. I did have a problem with some meat I once bought there and have only purchased from it sparingly. Their big draw is the produce department which has probably the most inexpensive produce in town. It’s cheap, it’s ripe and it doesn’t always look pretty, which is good for the neighborhood because there are many people there with limited or fixed incomes.

What happened to PV is not sad, it’s the result of careless management and lack of sanitation procedures. No way should a grocery store of that size serving that many customers have gotten to the point where DEH felt like it was enough of a public health issue that it needed to be closed. Having been through literally hundreds of DEH inspections they’re not the enemy. They’re looking for conditions and practices that are putting the consumer at risk. The big ticket items are temperatures on everything from coolers to the steam tables holding food to the temperature of food in deli cases, evidence of uncontrolled pest infestations, storage conditions (ie. how things are stored) and if there is water, soap and hand towels available in employee restrooms and food preparation areas. PV failed in all these areas. I’m guessing, and it’s only a guess, that this was not the first visit from DEH where these items had been cited and that PV may have received some “fix-it” citations with which they did not comply so that when DEH came back they had no choice but to close the market.

I’ve read a lot of comments in various forums from people saying they shopped there and never noticed bad sanitation. I can’t say the same. While I never thought their sanitation was bad, I also didn’t think it was as good as Northgate, Windmill Farms or any Sprouts. The store was dingy at times, sometimes had some funky odors and indifferent employees in the hot food sections. So, no it didn’t always inspire shopping confidence. But I sure loved the prices in their produce department.

So aside from some bad press, the reality is that when DEH allows PV to reopen it will be one of the cleaner markets in which to shop and eat. The question is, can they maintain the level of store cleanliness needed to keep it open…


Glad to see that they’ve re-opened, and with an “A” rating, none less.

Postscript: That was pretty fast!

But would you go buying there now ? An A rating is fine but if there are no major changes in management it is only a question of time until it is back to the old way.

I would think that after an inspection that resulted in the store being closed, that there will be more frequent inspections there in the future. They may also have been warned that if the same conditions are found again, the store would be closed permanently. Anyway, the answer to your question is “yes”.

I’ve been back to Pancho Villa twice in the last week. The place definitely looks cleaner.

The flour tortillas they make in the produce department haven’t changed, they’re still pretty awesome.

The produce is still one of the best deals in town. I picked up 4 ears of corn for .99, 2 gorgeous poblano chiles for .69 each, 2 bolillos for .50 and a 1 lb container of strawberries for .69.

I love chorizo in Mexico as a filling for tacos, sopes gorditas, etc. I’ve never particularly cared for the ubiquitous chorizo in the tube that we get here in the U.S. Partly because it’s pretty much mystery meat and partly because I wasn’t that fond of the flavor profile. I noticed that PV had both beef and pork chorizo at the meat counter. I got some of the pork chorizo and the woman who waited on me said it was “muy rico” and it was. I was happy with this chorizo. I made papas y chorizo for dinner. loved that it was lean, didn’t render out a half pound of fat and had a mild by pleasing chile flavor.

Not sure I’m ready to tackle the to-go food offerings yet, but the store looks to be in good shape and busy.

Happy to read your favorable report, DD. I haven’t been to PV since my last post.

The pork chorizo sounds like it’s worth the price of admission!

But I’m not sure I’ve ever had beef chorizo. I’ll ask my DH companion. (If I’ve had it somewhere, sometime, she’ll remember.)

I’ve always been a little leary of their meat department, but the produce and tortillas are great! Best chips anywhere and the fresh flour tortillas melt in your mouth. I’ve been back, but I probably won’t be in a hurry to buy from the deli or meat dept.

MsV…under normal circumstances I would agree with you about the meat counter at PV. I’ve had mixed luck there and generally avoid as well. But this time I needed chorizo and when the choice came down to the stuff in the plastic tube (OMG, DON’T read the label) vs the meat counter, the meat counter was the easier winner.

I asked the butcher if they were making the bulk chorizos in-house and he said yes. He also said they’re in the process of getting a stuffing machine so that they can sell them as links as well as bulk. I have to say, the flavor profile on the bulk pork chorizo was quite good and it was clearly meat and fairly lean. I made Papas y Chorizo out of it and used it as a filling for sopes at a recent event for 25. Half the attendees were Mexican and the other half are frequent travelers in Mexico; the papas y chorizo was well received.

So I can vouch for the bulk pork chorizo at PV but I do agree with you that the rest of the meat counter is kind of hit or miss.

FWIW, it also appears they are nixtamalizing corn and grinding it. Saw the grinder at the eastern end of the meat counter. The hopper was full with the nixtamalized corn and they were grinding. A guy from the tortillaria came over with a 5-gallon bucket and got some to take back to the tortillaria

I was able to get pork bung from Pancho Villa a while back.

Pleasantly surprised.