It is a crime against great food that tacos arabes are not more common. From the Puebla region of Mexico, they combine the specialties of two countries in a way that was fashionable long before food-lovers learned to recoil at the term "fusion food." Part taco, part gyro, the taco arabe was the brainchild of Iraqi immigrants in Puebla in the early '30s, and now the Mediterranean/Mexican food can be found here in Seattle. Antojitos Poblanos el Sapo, hidden in the back of a Mexican market on Aurora, offers the pillowy soft tacos arabes, along with a patchwork of other Poblano specialties, including cemitas, molotes, and tlacoyos.
Antojitos, or 'little snacks,' are served out of literal holes-in-the-wall all over Puebla. Most stands have a vat of oil and serve up a menu of fried goodies, like the molotes served at el Sapo. Meat stuffed into cornmeal, fried and sauced, these over-sized dumplings are typical of such a stand. A Cemita is a sandwich piled high with stringy Mexican cheese and served on a sesame-seed-flecked bun, generally purchased at a specialty stand: an assembly line of soft buns, cool cheese, and savory meats. Finally, in Puebla, you'd find the tacos arabes in specialized restaurants, where huge spits rotating the meat and plumes of scented smoke trailing out the open doors grab bystanders and pull them in.
El Sapo tries to do it all, combining the foods of at least three different Poblano restaurant styles, offering a one-stop snack shop for those craving certain specialties. As is often the case, that overaealousness means not everything is perfect. The meat in the tacos arabes wasn't spit roasted, though it had the herb-infused, flame-kissed flavor that's expected. The tortillas were not as thick as the almost pita-like flatbreads you'd find in Puebla, but the chipotle salsas in squirt bottles were dead on, adding Mexican heat to this Middle-Eastern-tinged food. The minor imperfections means this is not the food that would reach out a grab a newcomer to the cuisine, but it serves to stir up memories and satisfy an urge for anyone who has had it before.
Still, there is plenty of reason to look for the hand-stenciled sandwich board on the side of Aurora, announcing the presence of "Antojitos Poblanos". The complimentary chips are some of the best in the city: you can see the server walk out of the kitchen with the fryer basket--the salsa they come with is nearly as fresh, too--and the menu is full of options you won't find elsewhere in the city, such as champurrado, a Mexican hominy-based hot chocolate, that will warm any Seattle fall-induced chills.