Pantrucas is a little place in the foothills of Provo. For the last eight years, Ricardo and Margarita Minond have worked diligently in the restaurant they started with the sole purpose of bringing good, authentic flavor from their Chilean home to the residents of Utah County.
And for eight years, they’ve succeeded.
On our visit, we went will a full spread, sampling a fair few of their specialties from the menu. First of all, everything looks delicious, which makes choosing hard; not to mention that the place is so small that the fragrances have no choice but to be strong. That’s not a bad thing, unless of course, you’re sensitive to onions because we did notice a little bit of a burn in our eyes as we sat at our corner table.
Their menu is big enough to give a good selection, but not seem overwhelming to someone new, plus they offer daily specials that change on a regular basis. Much of their menu would fall into the “sandwich” category. We picked two of them, the Barros Luco and the Churrasco Palta, which happen to be two of their most popular dishes. And it’s easy to understand why.
The Barros Luco is just meat and cheese, and it’s delicious. The cheese adds a subtle, mild flavor while the meat is wonderfully spiced. To compare it to other local cheesesteaks would be doing it a disservice because it offers a different flavor from any of them. The spices aren’t overpowering, but they each draw out the natural, delicious flavor of the meat and add just a hint of spice that hits you in the back of the throat.
The Churrasco Palta was even better. The same meat piled high on fresh bread with avocado and tomato. The flavors played off of each other so well, it was hard to tell that it was the same kind of meat that was in the Barros Luco. The flavor was full and dynamic, while feeling fresh and light. By and far, the Churrasco Palta gets our recommendation for any first-timers at Pantrucas, even if just for the depth of flavor available in each bite.
We have to talk about the bread, though. Made daily in their kitchen, the bread is probably the best part of the sandwich. Flaky and crisp on the outside while the inside is soft and warm. It’s easy to see that they took time to make it–to craft it–and that it’s meant to perfectly compliment the ingredients of the sandwich. Maragarita told us that they make the bread because they couldn’t find the right kind anywhere else, and we were glad they chose to go that extra mile.
Along with our sandwiches, we tried their two most popular empanadas: beef and cheese. the beef empanada is fragrant, like dressing at Thanksgiving. The crust is flaky and perfectly brown, and inside you’ll find that same flavorful beef with hard-boiled eggs and seasonings that again draw out the natural flavors of the meat rather than cover them up. The cheese empanada is mild and simple, but still delicious and is a great way to finish off a meal.
To wash it all down, we treated ourselves to Pantrucas fresh juice. Some people might shy away from the $4 price tag, but they’re only cheating themselves out of some of the best juice they’ll find in the Valley. The high price speaks to both the quality and the quantity of the juice.
We tried their pineapple and honeydew juices, and both were excellent. They were frothy with just the right amount of sweetness while being fresh and flavorful. The amount of juice that the $4 buys is impressive, coming to the table served in tall carafes. Nowhere else will someone find a drink the size of the juices served at Pantrucas for the same price. For anyone going, definitely pay for this delicious treat, even if it is a splurge.
Overall, Pantrucas is great, locally-owned and authentic restaurant for anyone looking for some place new and exotic. They’re located next to Days Market at 3161 North Canyon Road in Provo. Be aware of their odd hours, with lunch service ending at 3 p.m. most days and then closing up the dining area until dinner around 5:30 p.m. Ricardo and Margarita run absolutely everything, so be ready to bus your own table, but be courteous because, ultimately, they’re doing their customers a great service.
By Alex Sousa and Nicola Pritchett :: Photos by Nicola Pritchett
Alex Sousa is studying journalism in UVU’s communication department. He’s serving as the managing editor at the UVU Review as well as the editor of the music blog on uvureview.com. He’s had experience working as a freelance writer and also as a copy writer at a marketing agency. Currently he’s working as the Editor-in-chief of the Utah Tech Magazine, an interactive, digital publication. He’s a Utah native who’s traveled around the world; having lived in Mexico, backpacked through Europe, studied in the Middle East and—for a time—been stranded in the Ukraine. He can be found on Facebook and he’s available on Twitter @TwoFistedSousa or by email at [email protected].