Shrimp Puffy Tacos at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe

My current favorite entrée at El Real is not even on the menu (yet). This confused me the first time I tried to order this dish, because I had seen it on the El Real Web site. After scanning the menu a few times, I thought perhaps I had missed the boat. The SHRIMP boat. HAH! (Tumbleweed.) Okay, moving on.

"Do you still have the shrimp puffy tacos?" I asked our server. "Oh, yes," she replied. "They're very popular. They should be permanently on the menu soon."

After trying them, I can certainly understand why. El Real specifies that "to make the tacos, five shrimp are rubbed with a zesty spice blend, mesquite grilled, chopped into chunks and stuffed into two fresh-fried puffy taco shells."

Two fried tortillas stuffed with grilled prawns, cabbage slaw, tomato, and cilantro and laced with jalapeño ranch sauce, the shrimp puffy tacos are the perfect combination of garden and grease. I usually gravitate to the reverse format (fried fish, soft tortillas) for seafood tacos, but the puffy shell presents two advantages. First, its sturdier structure means there's less chance of the shell disintegrating under the weight of its contents, and second, the crisp of the tortillas is particularly satisfying when juxtaposed with the juiciness of the grilled shrimp.

As of press time, the online menu, at least, still fails to mention the shrimp puffy tacos, but live a little and order them anyway...

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Joanna O'Leary