New Papi’s taco stand puffs, stuffs and serves at O.C. Fair

Papi's Puffy Tacos at the Orange County Fair
Papi’s Puffy Tacos at the Orange County Fair uses fried corn masa in place of tortillas to make tacos like this one with carne asada.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

A different kind of taco is making its premiere at this year’s Orange County Fair.

Papi’s Puffy Tacos, an orange-colored food stand, is dishing out its puffy fare using fried corn masa in place of tortillas.

The result resembles a street taco, albeit with a mightier shell and an assortment of other goodies packed inside: a choice of lime-marinated carne asada, achiote-marinated chicken, carnitas, al pastor or creamy potatoes alongside a filling of lettuce, cotija cheese, tomatoes and Papi’s sauce — a take on chipotle crema but with a spicy kick. Sides of jalapeños and red or green salsa are optional.

Drinks include sodas, lemonade, horchata and iced tea.

To find Papi's Puffy Tacos at the Orange County Fair, look for its orange-colored stand.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Papi’s is near the children’s carnival, a short walk from the Green Gate. The establishment is the brainchild of veteran concessionaire Robert Sharp and his Paso Robles-based company, Sharp Concepts.

The business, which traces its roots to a single churro cart that Sharp operated at the beach while in high school, also runs restaurants in the Paso Robles wine country, including Big Bubba’s Bad BBQ and Good Ol’ Burgers.

Sharp said his fair businesses previously focused on volume — lots of food for lots of people. But he wants Papi’s to focus more on quality.

Papi's Puffy Tacos
A taco vampiro is one of the offerings by Papi’s Puffy Tacos at the O.C. Fair.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

That’s partially why it has a limited menu: puffy tacos, puffy taquitos, fries and his proprietary tacos vampiros — crispy grilled tortillas filled with melted cheese, meat, guacamole and onions.

“We have four items,” Sharp said. “But we can focus all of our attention to making these items great ... everything is made fresh.”

Sharp favors the taquitos — corn tortillas filled with carnitas, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cotija cheese and Papi’s sauce.

Two puffy tacos or three puffy taquitos cost around $10. Two tacos vampiros run about $11, and fries vary from $6.50 to nearly $12.

Smaller portions on the “grazing for savings” menu range from around $7 to $9 and include a drink.


What: Orange County Fair

Where: OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa

When: Wednesdays through Sundays through Aug. 11; noon to midnight Wednesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturdays and Sundays

Cost: General admission is $12 Wednesdays through Fridays and $14 on weekends. Several specials and discounts are available. For details, visit


Bradley Zint is a contributor to Times Community News.

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