Pan-Handlers Café and Catering
Out of A Passion For Learning Her Mom's Recipes, Livia Woodburn
Creates A Healthy Lunch Cafe Underground
Livia Woodburn, owner of Pan-Handlers Cafe and Catering, attributes her passion for cooking to her mother, Alicia, who is an amazing cook. Livia didn’t realize how much she appreciated her mother’s cooking until she moved away to college, where she found herself frequently calling Alicia to ask her for recipes and advice. Livia loved throwing regular dinner parties with friends while she was attending college at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas.
Livia moved back to Amarillo in November of 2005. For the first few months of being back in Amarillo, she temporarily filled in at her dad, David Woodburn D.D.S.’s, office. She then got a job as a Graphic Designer at the Amarillo Globe-News. Within the first year of working there, she moved over to their magazine department and started designing for the Amarillo Uptown, now the Amarillo Magazine. At the end of April in 2010, Livia and her magazine co-workers were unfortunately laid off.
Livia had brought her love of throwing a good dinner party with her to Amarillo and her cousin, Lizzie (Woodburn) Smith, was freshly married and not working. The two ladies decided to start catering small events for friends and family. After a time, there was an opportunity to take over the lease and equipment from a short-lived Jamaican restaurant, located in Western Business Park. Livia and Lizzie started catering and making specialty cupcakes out of the space. As specialty cupcake shops starting popping up around Amarillo, the ladies decided to focus more on catering and dinner parties while serving lunch with free delivery in the Business Park. They started out with a few select menu items, some of which are still on their menu today. When their lease was up six months later, one of Livia’s long time friends told her that the basement restaurant space in Amarillo National Bank’s Plaza One building was available. The ladies hadn’t even thought of opening a restaurant, but were intrigued when they toured the space that had been remodeled in 2007. Livia’s reaction when she first saw the space was, “Oh my gosh this place is really nice. I hadn’t been in here since they remodeled it and I hardly ever came down here.” The unique location and the fact that the Woodburn family and the Wares of Amarillo National Bank have a long friendship, made it the perfect fit.
When brainstorming a name for their new venture, Livia’s youngest brother, Rusty, shouted out, “Pan-Handlers, you know because you handle pans in the Panhandle.” At first it was funny, but the more they thought about it, the more brilliant the idea. In 2010, Livia and Lizzie opened Pan-Handlers Cafe and Catering in the lower level of the downtown ANB Plaza 1 building. Livia likes their location. “It’s so hidden and a lot of people still don’t know that we’re here. But I kind of like that. It’s a secret place and it’s funky and different. It has a hidden gem aspect to it.”
Even though it is a hidden gem, Livia feels that if they serve good food, people will find out about them. Word of mouth is their advertisement. It’s obvious they’re doing something right, because they get busier every year. The misconception that Pan-Handler’s is an executive restaurant is false. It is open to the general public.
The ladies felt fortunate to walk into a fully equipped kitchen, all the way down to the plates and cups. Livia attributes much of their success to the support from Amarillo National Bank, “They have been nothing but amazing to us. The President and Senior Vice Presidents are so sweet and come in regularly and give high praise.” ANB employees enjoy a restaurant that has been in the space solidly for years. Plus, they get fresh, healthy lunch options. Livia feels fortunate to have a customer base with the bank employees. Pan-Handler’s sees many regular customers from the rest of downtown Amarillo, too. Even juries from the local courthouse come in to dine.
The sole proprietor since May of 2018, Livia, strives to not only focus on fresh and healthy options, but also cater to vegetarian, vegan and gluten free needs. The soup and salad bar is always fresh and changes daily. Any Pan-Handlers sandwich can be prepared on gluten free bread. They use a separate gluten free fryer and strive to have many vegetarian, vegan and gluten free items on the salad bar. All of the sauces and dressings are house made. Also made are a smoked Gouda cheese spread and fresh guacamole for sandwiches every day. Burger pickles, pickle spears, bread and butter jalapeños and pickled onions round out the house made specialties. Livia tries to use local and organic produce, when possible.
Pan-Handlers’ daily specials change weekly. A few customer favorite specials stay in regular rotation, such as fish and chips with homemade beer batter and tartar sauce every other Friday, a buttermilk-marinated chicken strip basket with homemade gravy every other Wednesday and a Cajun alfredo chicken pasta that alternates on Wednesdays. Other fan favorites are their Cuban and Monte Cristo sandwiches.
Pan-Handlers is open for lunch Monday through Friday, from 11:00am-2:00pm. They are closed on bank holidays. Pan-Handlers still caters and does special events. Their promise is to provide quality foods in a modern, friendly atmosphere while providing superior service by their amazing staff. If you are downtown or are interested in a catering, Livia and her team would love for you to come check out their hidden gem!