To find one of the greatest lunches in Amarillo, diners must go underground. From inventive daily specials, to a fresh salad bar that will make you reconsider your aversion to kale and Brussels sprouts, to homemade soups that will warm your heart and soul, burgers and sandwiches hearty enough to keep you full well past dinnertime, and freshly made desserts that are as satisfying as they are sweet, the Pan-Handler’s Café is a hidden gem in downtown Amarillo dining.
The Pan-Handler’s Café offers some of the freshest food from its basement-level location below Amarillo National Bank’s Plaza One building, every weekday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pan-Handlers’ salad bar is offered as a side or as an entire meal, and features greens, added vegetable and fruit toppings, cheeses, nuts and seeds along with house-made dressings. It makes for a filling—and texturally interesting—lunch.
“If Brussels sprouts always tasted like this, I would eat them every day!” I hear a diner say to their waitress a few tables over. Another satisfied customer.
There are a few places in Amarillo where this diner orders almost exclusively according to the chef’s daily specials, but Pan-Handler’s is one. Daily specials like Creamy Chicken Spaghetti, Shrimp Scampi, cheeseburger wraps, and specialty sandwiches are inspired by owner/operator Livia Woodburn’s childhood memories of her mother’s cooking. On a lucky day, Pan-Handlers will still have a serving of Chicken Spaghetti available, which I am always happy to order in addition to my lunch and save it to enjoy at dinnertime.
Variations of classic Rice Krispy Treats are often featured on the dessert menu, and flavors like Salted Caramel, Oreo, and Peanut Butter are worth taking lunch early for. Other desserts like Banana Pudding Pie, decadent brownies, and beautifully decorated cookies—available as daily specials—make dessert difficult to pass up. They are made with such care and with high-quality ingredients that dessert at Pan-Handlers feels like a mid-day celebration rather than a mid-day indulgence.
The Pan-Handler’s regular menu consists of enough sandwiches to keep diners intrigued every day of the week. A vegan delight, the Professor packs incredible flavor and texture. Comprised of wheat bread piled high with hummus, guacamole, caramelized onions, sprouts, fresh spinach, and grilled tomato, the Professor isn’t lacking in flavor or fill. Diners in the mood for a meatier meal will enjoy the Ruth Ellen Reuben—a take on the classic warm sandwich, swapping roast beef for smoked turkey, complete with sauerkraut, Swiss, and house-made Thousand Island Dressing, all stacked and slathered on marble rye. Pan-Handlers throws a tasty change-up with the classic BLT, adding guacamole rather than mayo to wheat bread. Another meatless option, the Marfa features springy ciabatta, which is grilled and pressed to encase fresh mozzarella, tomato, spinach, and an herbaceous pesto mayonnaise. Another favorite, the Handler Burger begins with an Angus beef patty, and is topped with melty cheddar cheese and crispy fried onions, drenched in a homemade BBQ sauce.
Any of the sides are great options to accompany Pan-Handlers’ sandwiches or burgers; the house-made chips are hefty and fried to perfection, as are the French fries and sweet potato fries. I recommend maximizing your order by getting a side of fries plus a trip through the salad bar, along with half of a sandwich. And make sure you get a house-made pickle with your sandwich—you will not regret trying its punchy blend of spice and vinegar.
Open every weekday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Amarillo National Bank Plaza One
410 S. Taylor St., in the basement