Panchitos in the Highlands opened this summer and is serving tacos, quesadillas and tamales, as well as its signature desserts. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Panchitos Ice Cream has been open for a while now on Preston Highway, and when a location of the small regional chain opened in the Highlands, I didn’t give it much thought, since ice cream isn’t my thing.

Then, someone told me the new location also was serving tacos. Now, tacos, they are my thing. So I decided to check it out, and the rumors were true.

For the price, it was quite a meal. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Panchitos on Bardstown Road opened back in August in a building that most recently housed Banh Mi Hero (the sign is still on the building) and also was the original space for Oiishi Sushi and has housed a number of concepts.

It’s squished in between a car service lot and a hearing care center, but the exterior and interior of the space is well kept and clean.

Of course, as soon as you walk in the door, the pink décor hits you, followed by the coolers filled with colorful ice creams.

Panchitos also specializes in popsicles of all types, with categories of wares based on what you want, including water-based treats that are similar to sherbets.

But I came for the main course, not the dessert, so I eyeballed the small menu board on one wall. It’s pretty simple, really: four kinds of tacos and quesadillas, including chorizo, pollo, al pastor and asada. Tacos are $3, and quesadillas are $6.25. There’s also a tamale for $2.59, and the house special is three tacos and a scoop of ice cream for $9.99.

I ordered a tamale, a chorizo taco and an al pastor taco with a mandarin-flavored Jarritos soda — there are no Coca-Cola or Pepsi products, just Jarritos or house-made “aqua fresca” drinks — and took a seat to wait as they prepared my food to order.

The tacos are ample and tasty. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

After only a few minutes, my food came out in plastic baskets and wax paper, and I knew immediately I had overextended myself.

For the price, the tamale was relatively enormous, a big corn puff with spicy, red tamale sauce on top (I soon discovered there is nothing inside, just pure corn), and served on a steamed banana leaf.

Meanwhile, both tacos were packed to the brim with meat and topped liberally with fresh onions and cilantro.

I decided to give the tamale a try first, and it was so good, I simply kept eating until it was gone. I noted that there is pulled chicken (pretty sure that was chicken) blended with the tasty sauce, and the tamale was hearty and dense, but not too dense, if that makes sense.

I wanted another one, but I had a pair of tacos to tackle.

I started with the al pastor taco, which is pork marinated with pineapple. This version was in a thick, shawarma-like base. I was presented with two salsas, a mild verde and a hotter pepper-based version, for the tacos, but the “gravy” itself rendered additional salsas unnecessary.

Chunks of tender pork blended with bits of pineapple for a flavorful and filling taco that I couldn’t finish if I had any hope of trying the chorizo.

The mangonada is a Panchitos best-seller. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Stopping midway, I then had a few bites of the chorizo taco, which surprisingly was not grease-soaked. The chorizo was quite mild but had a nice flavor and the appropriate, sausage-like consistency.

Plus, it played well with the hotter of the two salsas. Not the best chorizo taco I’ve had, but certainly solid.

Once I’d finished, I knew I’d be remiss not to try the house specialty dessert, the mangonada, a Mexican sundae of sorts with a mango-based sherbet topped with Chamoy sauce, fresh-cut mangos, lime and chili powder, and served with a tamarind straw.

I’m not a dessert guy, but the blend of sweet and savory, plus the fresh mango, made this a real treat. It’s no wonder the mangonada is a Panchitos best-seller.

I was so impressed with that treat that I literally forgot to pay and had to call the business when I got home to apologize and arrange payment. That doesn’t happen to me often, if it ever has.

Panchitos Ice Cream is located at 2245 Bardstown Road, with a second location at 8112 Preston Hwy. Hours for both locations are noon-10 p.m. daily.

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Kevin Gibson
Kevin Gibson tackles the 3Rs — retail, restaurants, real estate — plus, economic development. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono. Check out his books, “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” and “100 Things to do in Louisville Before You Die.” He has won numerous awards for his work but doesn’t know where most of them are now. In his spare time, he plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies. Email Kevin at [email protected]