Tacos El Tucan opens in former Pup Hut site

Tacos El Tucán, the North & East’s newest neighborhood hot spot, specializes in serving Tijuana-style tacos from its location at the former home of Pup Hut at 12505 San Pablo Ave. (All photos by Kathy Chouteau)

By Kathy Chouteau

Grey clouds and a torrential downpour didn’t stop a large swell of locals from getting their tacos on at Tacos El Tucán on a recent Sunday afternoon.

The eatery—which, according to owner Alfredo Padilla, opened its doors in mid-November—specializes in serving Tijuana-style tacos from its location at the former home of Pup Hut at 12505 San Pablo Ave.

Padilla spent three months revamping the space before opening Tacos El Tucán, and it’s evident his efforts have paid off. Gone is the Pup Hut blue and retro décor and in its place is a fresh, clean and updated look that includes new flooring, wooden tables inside and out, black and white wall tiles, a bright red roof and red accents throughout. On the wall is a neon sign that flashes, “You are the salsa to my tacos.” And of course, on the outside of the restaurant street-side, the old light-up Pup Hut sign has been replaced by one with a toucan bird on it that simply states, “El Tucan.”

In the words of a patron overheard when he entered the eatery on that busy Sunday, “Man, they made this place look good!”

During a lunchtime visit that day, our crew ordered chicken and al pastor Quesatacos, which in addition to a choice of meat per order, consisted of a handmade tortilla, crispy, melted cheese, cilantro, onion and guacamole; a carne asada Super Burrito, including a flour tortilla, pico de gallo, rice and pinto or refried beans, guacamole, cheese and sour cream; and Tucan Fries, French fries topped with a choice of meat, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream and cheese.

The big hit of our order were the Tucan Fries, which we chose to have topped with carne asada meat, in addition to the other aforementioned toppings. It was a symphony of flavors, with every ingredient adding its own special element to the overall dish. Given that the fries are a very generous portion, they’re best shared among friends/family.

Both the chicken and al pastor Quesatacos were also delicious, with the meat being perfectly seasoned and very flavorful, as well as expertly complemented by the fellow ingredients. As for the Super Burrito, it was also tasty, but perhaps not the stand-out stars that the fries and tacos were. Overall, all ingredients in our dishes were fresh and well-made by an attentive kitchen crew. Service at the register, where meals are ordered, was very friendly and welcoming.

According to owner Padilla, Tacos El Tucan also offers agua fresca drinks for its customers, with flavors altering daily. On the day this reporter visited, the flavors were pineapple with cucumber and also cantaloupe.

Current hours of operation are Tues. through Sat. from 12-8 p.m. and Sun. 12-6 p.m. Tacos El Tucán is closed Mondays. Look for the restaurant online here  and on Instagram at @tacoseltucan. For more info call 510-374-6538.