Posts Tagged ‘Burritos’

Puffy Taco Round-Up – San Antonio

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 by virginia

The puffy taco is a San Antonio specialty that involves a light, flaky, deep fried tortilla as the taco shell. These puffy shells are nothing like the hard, tortilla chip-like taco shells that we’re used to back east. We decided to try out three of the most well-known puffy taco places in San Antonio and see what makes these tacos so special.

First up was Ray’s Drive Inn, which claims to be the home of the original puffy taco. We stopped there for a quick snack after touring all of the beautiful San Antonio missions.

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While the outside of the restaurant looks like an old time car hop, you actually order and get your food inside. J was asleep so Josh got our tacos and brought them right outside to the car where we quickly devoured them. We shared a puffy beef taco and a puffy chicken taco.

Puffy tacos from Ray's Drive Inn

Puffy tacos from Ray’s Drive Inn

Our initial thoughts about the puffy shell was that it was surprisingly soft and not as crispy as we would have hoped. It had a strong corn flavor but a slightly gritty texture. Both tacos came topped with chopped iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. The beef filling was slightly spicy and was well seasoned, but the chicken was dry and bland. It could have used some sauce or salsa, though that might have rendered the puffy taco shell even more soggy.

Puffy chicken taco innards

Puffy chicken taco cross section

Overall, we weren’t overly wowed by the puffy tacos at Ray’s Drive Inn, but we continued on our puffy taco crawl at our next destination, La Hacienda de Los Barrios. Our friend James actually recommended it to us, though we had also seen its sister restaurant, Los Barrios, featured on an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. La Hacienda is a bit off the beaten path, in a somewhat rural area well north of downtown San Antonio. It’s a huge space though, with lots of adjoining rooms and plenty of seating, including outdoor space.

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Since we were there for dinner, rather than just a snack, we did end up ordering more items, though of course we had to get the puffy tacos. We went for the same meats as at Ray’s – one beef, one chicken. The tacos were ordered a la carte so each showed up on its own large white plate, which was odd only because the plates were much larger than the tacos. What ended up happening was that each taco had fallen on its side and wound up sitting in a pool of condensation from the heat of its own shell. That rendered half of each taco soggy, which was really a shame because the other half was super puffy and crispy, just what I thought a puffy taco shell should be like. The shell didn’t have as much of a pronounced corn flavor, which I preferred because it didn’t overpower the flavor of the meat.

    Puffy beef taco from La Hacienda de Los Barrios

Puffy beef taco from La Hacienda de Los Barrios

Again, we liked the beef better than the chicken, just because beef tends to have more flavor in general. However, the chicken here was shredded more finely and had more seasoning, which gave it more taste. It was also more moist, and we thoroughly enjoyed both puffy tacos.

Puffy chicken taco from La Hacienda de Los Barrios

Puffy chicken taco from La Hacienda de Los Barrios

We also shared a Rio Grande plate, which included an enchilada verde, a chicken flauta, and a stuffed burrito. The enchilada was filled with chicken and covered in a tangy tomatilla sauce. The stuffed burrito was filled with beef picadillo and topped with melted cheese and ranchero sauce. The chicken flauta was in a crispy shell but on the dry side; it tasted better after dipping into the salsa they gave us with chips at the beginning of our meal. It was a large plate of food, rounded out with rice, beans, and guacamole salad. The enchilada verde was the star of the plate, with its nice and bright sauce.

Rio Grande plate

Rio Grande plate – stuffed burrito, chicken flauta, enchilada verde

We got a carne asada taco a la carte for J, though she was a bigger fan of the complimentary tortilla chips that graced our table. After had her fill of the beef, which is to say, after she took two bites, we shared the remainder, which was filled with strips of tender and well seasoned steak. The taco came with with guacamole, lettuce, and pico de gallo, and the flour tortilla had a nice chewiness to it.

Carne asada taco

Carne asada taco

Overall, we were pretty pleased with the food at La Hacienda de Los Barrios. While the puffy tacos suffered from a slight presentation issue, they were tasty and I could finally see why a puffy taco shell is so appealing. The combination plate that we shared was a huge amount of food and let us try a variety of offerings from the massive menu. Everything we tried was freshly prepared and well seasoned.

Our last puffy taco stop was Henry’s Puffy Tacos. It was actually the first stop of a little taco brunch crawl we did on our last day in San Antonio, but more on that separately, as the other joints didn’t involve puffy tacos.

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We ordered our usual beef/chicken combo and ate them immediately in our car outside the restaurant. Josh accidentally added guacamole to the tacos, which was different from our previous puffies, and I admit, the guacamole might have given Henry’s an edge. It added an extra element of flavor and prevented the meat, especially the chicken, from drying out. The beef was also different here – it was grilled strips rather than the ground beef that we got everywhere else. I don’t think Josh specified each time he ordered; he just asked for chicken and beef, and we ate whatever they gave us. But the puffy shell was the real standout at Henry’s. It was light, crispy, and had good flavor that complemented the toppings well.

Chicken and beef puffy tacos from Henry's Puffy Taco

Puffy tacos from Henry’s Puffy Tacos

Overall, Ray’s had the densest puffy taco shell, which made it our least favorite. It was actually a pretty disappointing introduction to puffy tacos for us, and had us questioning what made a puffy taco so special. Fortunately, our next two tries fared much better. Henry’s had the puffiest and lightest shells, which put it at the top of our list, although La Hacienda’s puffy taco wasn’t too far behind. We would happily eat at either place again, and experiment with various fillings. In our experience, the chicken puffy tacos just tend to be drier and more bland. Both the ground beef at La Hacienda and the grilled beef at Henry’s packed a lot of flavor and didn’t get lost inside the shell or underneath all the shredded lettuce. I don’t know why puffy tacos aren’t popular outside of San Antonio, as their light and crispy texture is much better (in my opinion) than the standard hard taco shell. Even if the inside layer of the puffy gets soggy from the toppings, the outside stayed crispier for much longer. It’s definitely something that I want to eat again, and I’ll be on the lookout for it here at home.

Ray’s Drive Inn
822 SW 19th St.

San Antonio, TX

La Hacienda de Los Barrios
18747 Redland Rd.
San Antonio, TX

Henry’s Puffy Tacos
6030 Bandera Rd.
San Antonio, TX

Driving from Tahoe to SF – Tortilla Flats

Friday, January 8th, 2010 by virginia

We left Tahoe around 11 in the morning and headed back to the Bay Area. We were too busy packing up the car to have breakfast so we decided to stop for lunch about an hour into our drive. We ended up at Tortilla Flats in Placerville, a Mexican restaurant on Main Street.

Our meal started off with complimentary baskets of fried tortilla chips and fresh salsa. The chips were thin and perfectly crispy, while the salsa had a fresh combination of tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and scallions. They happily brought us refills of each throughout our lunch.

Complimentary tortilla chips and salsa to start

I ordered a combination plate with two items – a ground beef burrito and a chicken enchilada. I ended up receiving a chicken burrito and a chicken enchilada instead, which I didn’t realize until I had already cut into both items. The chicken was fine, moist and shredded into tender pieces, so I didn’t bother asking for them to replace my burrito since we were kind of in a rush. Our waitress was really nice though so I’m sure that if I had said something, they would have fixed the problem graciously. Both the burrito and enchilada were covered in tangy salsa verde and melted cheese. I preferred the burrito only because it was wrapped in a flour tortilla, which I like better than corn tortillas, but otherwise they were pretty much the same so it just depends on your preference. The combination plate came with rice and refried beans, and it was just a huge platter of food. I barely finished half, but I thought it was pretty tasty.

Combination plate with refried beans, chicken enchilada, chicken burrito, rice

Josh and Sean both had fajitas with a combination of chicken and steak. The plate had a huge pile of meat mixed with assorted peppers and onions, and a side of rice and refried beans.

Chicken and steak fajitas

The slices of grilled chicken and steak were tender but the dish lacked seasoning. A sprinkling of salt and a few spoonfuls of the tasty pico de gallo fixed that problem, although it was surprising that the huge plate of food only came with three small corn tortillas on the side. I used some of the guacamole on my own dish and I thought it was fresh and tasty.

Pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, tortillas

Claire ordered carne asada tacos, which come with a choice of rice and beans or creamed corn on the side. Claire asked for “chips” instead, which our waitress said she would be bringing out anyway. She suggested that Claire get the mini tacos instead, since it was cheaper and didn’t come with any unwanted sides. After the waitress walked away, Claire realized that she had mistakenly said “chips” instead of fries (Claire is from Ireland) so she clarified with the waitress, who told her it wouldn’t be a problem to fix. We all had a good laugh about that, since we thought she meant tortilla chips as well, but the fries turned out to be fantastic – hot, crispy, and potato-y on the inside.

Carne asada mini tacos

Overall I really liked both the food and the service at Tortilla Flats. We only stopped there because it was right on Main Street but it turned out to be better than I expected. The atmosphere was laid back and relaxed, the music was good (Rodrigo y Gabriela were playing over the speakers), service was attentive, and the food was tasty. It wasn’t totally authentic Mexican food but it was comforting and familiar. Portions are very large and the prices were reasonable. If you’re looking for somewhere to grab a bite to eat either on your way to or from Lake Tahoe, I’d definitely recommend this place.

Tortilla Flats
564 Main St.
Placerville, CA