Type to search

In Des Moines News

Panka opening second location near Drake campus in space previously occupied by Fong’s Pizza

Panka’s hiring sign in the window of the shuttered Fong’s Pizza.

The Peruvian restaurant Panka will open a second location located on 31st Street and Forest Avenue.

The new location will be different from the current fine dining restaurant on Ingersoll Avenue. Owner Mariela Maya, an immigrant from Peru, is planning a menu focusing on rotisserie chicken cooked using a large charcoal oven she purchased in Peru.

“I went to Peru last April and I visited different rotisserie chicken places, and I have a couple of friends that have rotisserie chicken places,” Maya said. “So I went to see the menus, the ideas, the ingredients.”

Panka’s traditional Peruvian street food will be a new experience for many students on campus. Sophomore Mason Adams said he has never had Peruvian food and is looking forward to the restaurant opening.

“I would definitely be interested in going because it’s something I’ve never had before, and if I really enjoyed it I think I’d go there a lot,” Adams said.

The restaurant will also focus on fast service with customers ordering from a counter instead of having a waiter like the current restaurant. This will allow a faster experience for students looking for a quick bite to eat.

Supply chain delays have prevented the restaurant from opening for months, but Maya hopes to have an opening day in October.

“I wanted to open in July because in Peru, July is the month of the rotisserie chicken, and I’m still crossing my fingers for October,” Maya said.

Once open, Maya plans for the restaurant to be open seven days a week, most days until 10 p.m. Because of its proximity to campus and Peggy’s bar, the location will have later hours on weekends.

“Fridays and Saturdays I’m going to stay open until midnight because I have Peggy’s. When you drink, you want to have a little food, and nothing is open late here,” Maya said.

With most restaurants in the Drake neighborhood closing between 9-10 p.m., Adams is looking forward to a restaurant that is within walking distance where he can grab a meal later in the night.

“It will be nice to have a place really close to walk to especially with the hours,” Adams said. “It’s nice to get food late.”

Maya’s sisters also own Peruvian restaurants in South America and showed her the ropes when she was planning her first restaurant.

“I always wanted to open a cafe – something not as big as a restaurant, but I have three sisters and they have restaurants,” Maya said. “I went to one of my sisters’ restaurants to see how everything works, and I stayed there for a month and a half.”

She returned to Des Moines, spending a year looking for a location and making recipes before opening the first location of Panka in February 2019. After a year of successful business, the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the restaurant, which had to adapt to the stay-at-home order and other pandemic restrictions.

 “It was really hard because I needed to close the restaurant for several months. Then we opened just for delivery and pickups,” Maya said. “When they decided to open the restaurants, my revenue went down because a lot of people were afraid to go to the restaurants.”

The food service worker shortage spawned by the pandemic also created challenges for Panka. The location on Ingersoll is open only seven hours a day five days a week, which prevents employees from working full time.

Maya believes opening a second location will help provide employees with more hours.

“With the second location, I can offer [employees] full-time. I think that it is going to [make it] easier to find more employees,” Maya said.

She is hiring for all positions, including servers and kitchen staff. Applications can be found on Pankas’ website.

The restaurant is still under construction but will be decorated with neon-colored signs from Peru that represent the Chicha music and art culture in Peru. Maya is excited for customers to experience the thought she’s put into the new location.

“I want to share my culture, my Peruvian food,” Maya said.

Skip to content