Day Trips: Ray's Drive Inn, San Antonio

The west side institution is the original home of the puffy taco

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Ray's Drive Inn's puffy tacos have comforted thousands in San Antonio since 1956. The west side institution is where generations of families have gone to celebrate a birth, a victory on the softball field, or to mourn the loss of a loved one. It's a neighborhood establishment with good food and friendly service that brings folks back. Part cafe and part museum, Ray's has a menu that branches into steaks and seafood. It's more than a taqueria; it's a kitchen of traditions.

If there is a signature dish of San Antonio, it must be the puffy taco. Frying a flattened masa ball so that it becomes a light and airy taco shell is an art form that many restaurants have copied enough that it is nearly ubiquitous in San Antonio Mexican restaurants. There is some debate about who invented the "puffy," but generally the credit is given to Arturo Lopez, who passed away in 2015.

Arturo purchased the Drive Inn from his older brother, Ray, in 1966. In 1992, Arturo received the trademark for the puffy taco, solidifying his claim as the original. One person who disputes Arturo's claim is his brother, Henry, who owns Henry's Puffy Tacos at 6030 Bandera Rd. Both have their adherents and both are worth a try.

Ray's Drive Inn is at 822 SW 19th St. at Guadalupe. The puffy tacos come in beef, chicken, and avocado, and at around $2 apiece, it's worth it to try all three.

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Ray's Drive Inn, San Antonio, puffy taco

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