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Meet 'Panuchos,' North Beach's New Mayan-Influenced Mexican Eatery

Back in May, the Vietnam Restaurant at 620 Broadway, a little hole-in-the-wall late-night eatery nestled between the border of North Beach and Chinatown, quietly closed its doors.

Now, with minimal changes (the Vietnam Restaurant sign is still displayed on the awning), Panuchos, a Yucatan-style Mexican joint, has taken over the helm. 

Morgan Anderson, who co-owns Panuchos with Juve Carrillo, told us the pair have been looking for a spot to open an affordable Yucatan-influenced restaurant for a long time.

Along with another business partner, they also run work at Bella Trattoria, an Italian restaurant at 3854 Geary St. in the Inner Richmond. But since Carrillo is of Mayan descent, Anderson said he's always wanted to open up a restaurant serving food reminiscent of his childhood.

They chose the location because "we just love the neighborhood," Anderson said. "We knew the owner of Vietnam, and he told us that he was going to be closing, so we were able to take over." 

North Beach and Chinatown are both largely known for their varying noodle offerings, and Anderson recognizes that the only other counter-service Mexican establishment in the area, Taqueria Zorro, is close by. But he hopes that the uniqueness of Yucatan flavors, as well as the restaurant's late-night hours (open until 3am on weekends), will be an asset. 

He said the restaurant has already seen a stream of regular customers in its first few weeks, many of them employees at the copious watering holes in the neighborhood. "Sometimes, we'll have someone come in late at night and order food for their entire bar or kitchen staff," Anderson said.

So what exactly is a panucho?

Anderson told us that panuchos are a traditional Mayan dish, made with corn tortillas stuffed with refried black beans. They're deep-fried and then topped with meat and veggies; the staple Mayan toppings are lettuce, cabbage, avocado and pickled red onions. But fear not, herbivores: achiote-marinated tofu is on the menu as well.

Mexican food fans will find the usual tacos, burritos and quesadillas filled with chicken or carne asada. But for a truly unique Mayan experience, try the poc chuc, pork marinated in beer, or cochinita pibil, pork slow-roasted with secret spices inside banana leaves for more than four hours.

Though Panuchos is currently closed on Sundays, it does offer breakfast options by request on other days, including huevos rancheros, chilaquiles and a breakfast burrito. Anderson said they'll continue to tweak the menu and the hours, and he hopes to one day offer a brunch menu. There's beer and aguas frescas, too. 

Panuchos is currently open Monday-Wednesday from 11am-midnight and Thursday-Saturday from 11-3am. As of this week, credit cards are accepted as well. 

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