Francisco Flores—founder of Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway—has died at the age of 89.

“Pancho’s was the place to go for a great Mexican lunch in my college days,” said Councilmember Roberto Uranga. “It was also my place for lunch every Tuesday after auctions at the tow yard. I miss those days and I will miss Pancho.”

Flores was born in Long Beach but returned to his family’s original homeland in Mexico during the Great Depression. He told people that he always knew he would return to America and did, opening Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant in 1966. With more than a 50-year history, it is one of the city’s oldest, continuously-run restaurants.

A collage from Councilmember Daryl Supernaw during the 50th Anniversary celebration for Pancho’s in 2016. Francisco Flores, in the light-colored shirt, stands between councilmen Roberto Uranga (left) and Supernaw. Courtesy of Daryl Supernaw.

It was a space that marked the definitive style of Mexican-American food institutions: Brown, padded booths showered in golden light from rust-colored lamps while hand-painted portraits of an idyllic Mexican life—horse-drawn carriages, women in colorful dresses, hills and pastures hung on the walls.

The menu was an invitation to a cuisine that began to define many Californians’ first taste of Mexican food: tacos dorados stuffed with ground beef and lettuce and guacamole, refried beans slathered in copious amounts of cheese, red-tinged rice, burritos the size of a small baby and drenched in enchilada sauce…

Pancho’s menu from 1966.

“Pancho was a quiet giant in our community,” financial advisor and friend Ben Goldberg wrote on Facebook. “He would support the local kids’ sports teams, churches and many people in need throughout his life… He came from humble beginnings, but left this world a better place and, in the process, epitomized the American Spirit with hard work and smart business and life decisions. I believe he has ensured that Pancho’s will be able to continue for years with the help and permission of his niece and nephew. I was honored to know him and I’m better for it.”

Fourth District Councilman Daryl Supernaw honored Flores by closing this past Tuesday’s City Council meeting in his memory.

“He was so humble, yet, you want to talk about the American Dream? He did it.” Supernaw told the Post. “Our district was much better for having him here.”