>> Arturo's Puffy Taco | Eat the World Los Angeles

Wednesday 1 June 2022

Arturo's Puffy Taco

The front of Arturo's Puffy Taco

COVID-19 UPDATE: Orders are placed at a walk-up window. There are tables outside as well as a small indoor area to eat if desired.

When you pull into the parking lot of Arturo's Puffy Taco, the outline of Texas is about the first thing you notice, bright yellow on an otherwise green menu board. In true California style, this stand is a walk-up, but the offerings are from the Lone Star State, and more specifically San Antonio. Tex-Mex is sometimes derided when people complain about authenticity (whatever that means), but the splintering of so many bloodlines of Mexican cuisine in the southwest of the United States and beyond is truly fascinating.

If you have any doubts about the paragraph above, start with Gustavo Arellano's classic "Taco USA" book, which covers the many iterations of how Mexican food has been so beloved in this country for centuries. If you have not been able to visit San Antonio, a city whose minor league baseball team has the mascot "Henry the Puffy Taco," a visit to this Whittier mainstay is in order to sample the best (and only?) version outside of Texas.

Puffy tacos with picadillo and carne guizada

A puffy taco is all about the shell, fresh masa that is submerged in frying oil until crispy. In San Antonio, the interior remains pillowy soft while the exterior shatters when you bite in, closer to what Angelenos know as a Mayan/Yucatecan salbut, but Arturo's of Whittier has elected to go with a crispy tortilla through and through. A California interpretation of a hyper-local Tex-Mex dish? Only in Southeast Los Angeles.

If you grew up anywhere in the United States that has families buying Old El Paso hard shell taco kits, the ground beef taco de picadillo ($3.10, above left and below) will bring back memories of those nights making them. The seasonings, the lettuce, the grated cheddar. But the hard shells here are of course the famous crispy San Antonio puffy version rather than the bland mass-produced kind.

Side view of crispy puffy taco shell

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with the standard picadillo, which makes the original puffy taco complete, even better is the stand's carne guizada puffy taco ($3.35), which ditches the taste of the seasoning packet. In its place is a salsa verde made of real peppers and tomatillos, with all the same toppings that obscure the meat of choice.

Arturo's is not all about puffy tacos, although that is what you will see their mostly older clientele ordering. Back in that Texas outline on the menu you will find some plates that also have a Tex-Mex and San Antonio feel, pairing an order of puffy tacos with rice and beans or mains of carne guizada or enchiladas. They also serve taquitos served in the style of Chico's Tacos in El Paso. Grab an Orange Whip, perfect for a walk-up taco stand meal, and enjoy whatever your heart is set on for the day.


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