Every city has its staple restaurants; the ones every local is familiar with; places that help define the city’s culture; restaurants that show up in all the travel guides as a “must.” Henry’s Puffy Tacos is one of those places. They have been established in San Antonio since 1978 and claim to be the home of the original puffy taco. It is one of those places that construction workers go to for lunch, and families celebrate parties at for dinner. In addition to its good food, the restaurant promotes itself by having created the very visible and likable mascot for the San Antonio Missions.
Because of its popularity, you might encounter a long wait equal to that of well-known national food chains. Its worth it if you keep that in mind. As the name implies, puffy tacos are the specialty. So, for the uninitiated, “What is a puffy taco?” you might ask. Well, for starters, it is a taco with your standard fillings of meat, lettuce, tomato, and cheese. What makes it different, however, is the shell. Most people are accustomed to either a flour tortilla (or soft taco), or a hard corn tortilla (crispy taco). The puffy taco is made with a corn masa (dough) that puffs up when fried, so it looks more like a pastry than an entree. Bad puffy tacos are grease laden and get soggy quickly, thus spilling its contents. Henry’s tacos have a good taste and consistency, and make you wish you had ordered more. As their specialty, I would personally be interested in seeing this restaurant step it up a notch with regards to their fillings, and make this a more prominent part of the menu (my opinion).
I’ve also tried the Tres Leches (3 milks) cake, a traditional Mexican pastry, and the Sopapillas, a puffed pastry with honey. I liked them both, although I have yet to find a Tres Leches cake actually worth what it is being sold for.
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve tried much else here other than the puffy tacos. I mean, if you’re going to Henry’s, eat the tacos. The sides of rice and beans are ok (I’m still waiting for a restaurant to take these sides as seriously as the entrées and do something special with them). I did find the service to be very good. I had a bad experience the last time I went in that I was told the wait would be about 20 minutes and I waited an hour to be seated (I have three young kids in tow, and I get very cranky when I get hungry). When I complained to the manager she was very friendly and offered me a couple of desserts on the house. In addition, she asked me to call her personally the next time we visited so that she could put me on the waiting list early. I always like to give an establishment the benefit of the doubt and they made up for it here.
So, on my list of places every local should visit, and every tourist should keep in mind, go to Henry’s and eat the puffy tacos.