Join Login Search
For Electric Cooperative Members
For Electric Cooperative Members
Hit the Road

Puffy Taco Trailblazer

Legendary Ray’s Drive Inn was the first and remains the best

When I hear the term “drive-in,” I immediately envision greasy cheeseburgers, thick milkshakes and smiling carhops. But Ray’s Drive Inn on the west side of San Antonio isn’t that kind of joint. Sure, it’s full of nostalgia, an old jukebox and belly-pleasing food. But Ray’s has a magical, signature dish that separates it from all others—puffy tacos. After hearing the legend, I took a day trip to the Alamo City to try them for myself.

Ray’s opened in 1956 as the entrepreneurial dream of Raymond Lopez. Legend holds that one day, Ray’s grandmother was frying corn masa for tostadas. She stepped away from the fryer and a wooden stick (no doubt guided by the hand of God) fell from a shelf and folded the masa into a tacolike form. The family started selling these crispy yet fluffy shells full of meat, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. In no time, a legend was born.

After almost 70 years, the restaurant is still family owned and operated by the children of Arturo Lopez, Ray’s younger brother.

I found the restaurant far from the beaten path and could smell the deep-fried tortillas as soon as I stepped out of my truck. Inside, the walls were a menagerie of family photos, taxidermy and even a neon altar to the Virgin Mary. I ordered up a platter of three puffy tacos (beef, chicken, and bean and avocado) and found a table tucked below a painting of Ray, Arturo and their three other brothers.

One bite let me know that this was unlike any taco I had ever eaten.

It was crunchy but soft and perfectly greasy. I had no choice but to order a few more with different fillings. You know, for research.