Original Puffy Tacos, Basement AestheticsWednesday, November 23, 2016
On our last visit to San Antonio, we went to Ray's Drive Inn -- it doesn't get the highest ratings or all the attention, but they're supposedly the inventor / home of the puffy taco. And if you're the least-bit familiar with SA, you know puffy tacos are a thing.
As Courtney Bond wrote at Texas Monthly,
A puffy taco is distinguished by its tortilla: a round of uncooked masa bobs in hot oil until the moisture evaporates and air pockets form. As for fillings, you’re a Texan—you don’t need to be told what to put in a taco.
The drive inn technically began in 1956 and went through different locations; in 1966, Ray's brother Arture "Art" moved back home from California and bought the business. With him, he brought a dish he knew from the Los Angeles area: puffy tacos. In 1992, he registered 'puffy tacos' and received the original trademark. The menu states that they serve over 500 of them each day.
First, though, the interior. Did you ever have a friend with one of those low-slung 1970s homes with the basement the dad had overstuffed with 'dad' things like gas station paraphernalia and taxidermy and license plates and neon beer signs? The original man cave? Ray's has got to be the ultimate.
In keeping with the Drive Inn vernacular, a paper boat to hold chips
Tecate in can, salt, citrus. Is that a lemon instead of a lime?
nachos served they way they should be: dressed individually rather than piled up. Jalapenos on the side as I was sharing these with the little ones
Av likes things minimalistic, which means a puffy taco consists of a puffy taco and meat only.
Me, I go with whatever. Send it to me how you think it should go.
Ray's only takes cash, and they're inexpensive (a beef puffy taco = $2; 3 enchilada plate with rice, beans, tortillas = $6). It was all good but not crazy delicious. Mostly, I loved the atmosphere and supporting a local business that's been around for so long.
The Phoenix New Times with 3 Tips for Avoiding Beer Tragedies of the Mexican Variety suggests that if Tecate is presented in a can, it should not be poured into a glass, and should get the salt and lime treatment. Negra Modelo and XX Amber never get lime. And, says the author, Corona is never a good beer.