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BEST Tamales
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  • BEST Tamales

    Post #1 - April 9th, 2008, 6:06 pm
    Post #1 - April 9th, 2008, 6:06 pm Post #1 - April 9th, 2008, 6:06 pm
    Howdy -

    I've been thinking about posting this for a while now. Looking for tamales in this city. There are quite a few places that offer them, but I'm looking for the GOOD ones. - No scratch that. The BEST ones. I can look up a place, or walk around Pilsen/little village, but I'm wondering if anyone has a go to spot for the best of the best. I make tamales at home every so often, but they are pretty time consuming, since I trust nobody for help when it comes to certain foods - this being one of them. I'm more of the camp of light fluffy dough as opposed to the thick, dense dough. I have heard many say that real lard makes the dough heavy and dense, but that could not be further from the truth. No matter WHAT fat medium is used, if it is whipped/creamed enough, the dough will be light and fluffy. Anyway, just looking for some new tamales to try, and maybe even set up a "tamal-a-thon." (I think these would be a PERFECT "a-thon" food, by the way) and maybe try to crown a top tamale.

    Three that I like:
    Los Tamales in Cicero.
    I like the chicken or pork in GREEN SAUCE ONLY here. The rest are not for me at all. The red sauce they use REALLY tastes like a canned enchilada sauce. The green sauce though - nice and spicy. Their dough is a little more dense than I generally like, but the batches do vary from time to time. Some will be lighter than others. 8-9.00 a dozen. Nicely stuffed too. Good value.

    Los Tamales
    5735 W 16TH ST
    CICERO, IL
    60804-1708

    ==================
    Tamale Hut Cafe

    Here's the deal with THC. They make REALLY GOOD tamales. ALL of them are REALLY good. Quality ingredients. They even use a hard cheese in the rajas con queso tamales. I like all of their varieties. The issue is that they are pricey. I still stop in once in a while, and don't get me wrong, these things are always on point, but they are a tad pricier than a tamale joint. For consistency and quality however, they are the best ones I have had.

    http://www.tamalehutcafe.com/
    =============================

    La Casa Del Pueblo.
    These are closest to the ones I make at home. Light fluffy dough that melts in yer mouth. Spicy sauces, and good chunks of meat. 8.00/dozen.
    I dig on the ones with pork, chicken and chile in them here. Side note: Their tinga kicks serious butt. Dozen tamales, a pint of tinga, and a few warm tortillas = ambrosia.
    La Casa Del Pueblo
    1810 S Blue Island Ave
    Chicago, IL 60608
    3124214640


    Where are others?
    Again, not just looking for a place that sells tamales. Looking for GOOD tamales. The BEST tamales. Tamales you'd vouch for.

    Tamal - A- Thon, anyone?
    :D
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #2 - April 9th, 2008, 6:50 pm
    Post #2 - April 9th, 2008, 6:50 pm Post #2 - April 9th, 2008, 6:50 pm
    Tamal Oaxaca at the Maxwell Street Market is my source for my favorite tamales in the city. They are a distinctive shape (rectangular) and cooked in a banana leaf, one of the best things I've ever eaten. Really.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #3 - April 9th, 2008, 6:58 pm
    Post #3 - April 9th, 2008, 6:58 pm Post #3 - April 9th, 2008, 6:58 pm
    The woman who sells tamales out of a cooler in front of International Foods is really good. Gotta get there early on a Saturday morning.

    International Foods Inc
    4404 W Fullerton Ave
    Chicago, IL 60639

    (773) 486-6277‎
    I can't believe I ate the whole thing!
  • Post #4 - April 9th, 2008, 7:22 pm
    Post #4 - April 9th, 2008, 7:22 pm Post #4 - April 9th, 2008, 7:22 pm
    Liz - is she ONLY on Saturday, and do you recall an approximate guestimate of a price?

    Hammond - guestimate price on those?
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #5 - April 9th, 2008, 7:26 pm
    Post #5 - April 9th, 2008, 7:26 pm Post #5 - April 9th, 2008, 7:26 pm
    I don't get why price is such a big deal here. Unless you are eating tamales 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, who cares. Buy the ones you like.
  • Post #6 - April 9th, 2008, 7:33 pm
    Post #6 - April 9th, 2008, 7:33 pm Post #6 - April 9th, 2008, 7:33 pm
    Seebee - I don't know what her sched is. Saturday AMs are a good bet, though.
    I can't believe I ate the whole thing!
  • Post #7 - April 9th, 2008, 8:23 pm
    Post #7 - April 9th, 2008, 8:23 pm Post #7 - April 9th, 2008, 8:23 pm
    seebee wrote:Hammond - guestimate price on those?


    About $3/each. From a volume standpoint, they're equivalent to maybe 3-4 regular cylindrical tamales.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #8 - April 9th, 2008, 8:49 pm
    Post #8 - April 9th, 2008, 8:49 pm Post #8 - April 9th, 2008, 8:49 pm
    David Hammond wrote:Tamal Oaxaca at the Maxwell Street Market is my source for my favorite tamales in the city. They are a distinctive shape (rectangular) and cooked in a banana leaf, one of the best things I've ever eaten. Really.


    I second Hammond's nomination.
  • Post #9 - April 9th, 2008, 8:59 pm
    Post #9 - April 9th, 2008, 8:59 pm Post #9 - April 9th, 2008, 8:59 pm
    David Hammond wrote:Tamal Oaxaca at the Maxwell Street Market is my source for my favorite tamales in the city. They are a distinctive shape (rectangular) and cooked in a banana leaf, one of the best things I've ever eaten. Really.

    I agree. But be forewarned . . . they do not last all day. I was there a little after noon Sunday and they had run out. :(
  • Post #10 - April 9th, 2008, 9:19 pm
    Post #10 - April 9th, 2008, 9:19 pm Post #10 - April 9th, 2008, 9:19 pm
    dukesdad wrote:I don't get why price is such a big deal here. Unless you are eating tamales 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, who cares. Buy the ones you like.

    Not the point of my questioning. I'm looking for good tamales. I don't even know if I like the ones I'm asking about. If you are referring to the ones I've listed, please look at the price of Tamale Hut Cafe, but before you do, ask yourself how much you think a dozen tamales would be from THC?

    I rarely carry cash, and I'm just looking for a roundabout price. I'm guessing the lady on the corner don't do amex for two or three dozen, and probably neither does the vendor at maxwell st. I would also assume that a dozen tamales would run about 8-10.00 in a tamale joint. If you walked into Tamale Hut Cafe and assumed that, you'd be in for a real shock. It's not so much about the price, as in "are they worth it?" but about the price as in "how much cash should I bring?"
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #11 - April 9th, 2008, 9:26 pm
    Post #11 - April 9th, 2008, 9:26 pm Post #11 - April 9th, 2008, 9:26 pm
    seebee wrote:I rarely carry cash, and I'm just looking for a roundabout price. I'm guessing the lady on the corner don't do amex for two or three dozen, and probably neither does the vendor at maxwell st.


    I'd be surprised if any vendors on Maxwell Street accept anything other than cash, but if you come with ten bucks in your pocket, you'll leave full and happy.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #12 - April 9th, 2008, 9:26 pm
    Post #12 - April 9th, 2008, 9:26 pm Post #12 - April 9th, 2008, 9:26 pm
    Tamale Hut Cafe is a wonderful place. In addition to the excellent tamales, they have Mexican Coke, atoles, good chicken tinga, and really nice elote with all the fixins. I find the prices reasonable even if they're more expensive than the usual tamal.
  • Post #13 - April 10th, 2008, 12:42 am
    Post #13 - April 10th, 2008, 12:42 am Post #13 - April 10th, 2008, 12:42 am
    Tamales are also a favorite of mine...if I see them on the menu im trying. They may also be how I came to stumble upon LTH. I think I was searching google where Chicago's best tamales can be found and the rest is history.

    Some of my favorites dead and alive are:

    el milagro (location on Southport)- It says they have been closed for renovation for over two years now so im pretty sure they are no more. When they were open they had some of the best tamales I had encountered up to that date. I have been meaning to try them at the original location forever but still havent made it.

    la casa del pueblo- The first restaurant I visited found thru LTH...to my recollection. This little Pilsen cafeteria serves up my current favorite tamale. They are sold in 1/2 dozen and dozen packages with my favorite being the red pork. They go quick and are usually out by 2 or 3 but do have them most of the time b/c they make so many. This is one of those steam plate cafeteria's that caters to a wide range crowd. every cook in the kitchen is an old Mexican lady and the tamales really stand out there.

    Taco Burrito Palace #2- Probably the best thing on the menu with the chicken enchilada's and cheese fries covered in rice coming a close 2nd. Maybe its because this is the tamale I grew up on and it hasnt changed to date...the owners wife still makes them fresh a couple times a week. I like the masa on these and when smothered in the homemade red salsa they are really good to me. When on these things are hard to beat but when they arent on they are average at best.

    Uncle Julio's- Again maybe not for everyone but I really love the tamal dinner covered in chili beef sauce, very unique to the city's different style of tamales to be found everywhere.

    La Cebbolita- They moved down the block from the original location on Ashland in Pilsen and its been a year but I enjoyed their tamales as well.

    The Tamale Guy/ Mr. Tamales- How can you not like it when the tamales come to you? For the older LTH crowd that rarely finds themselves in the "popular" bars after midnight...the tamale guy has been serving up his wifes homemade tamals to Chicago's bar scene for at least the last five years. You never know where and when he is going to pop in selling tamales ($6/ half dozen w/ green and red salsa and napkins) I think tamales go great with beer and I usually catch him at maproom and always have to order the pepper and cheese ones. Im a big fan of red pork type but his wifes pepper and cheese are HOT and I love the kick chased with a fresh micro from maproom. He appears everywhere so dont be surprised if he pops up outta nowhere in your yard when your stumbling home offering..."homemade tamal's".

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-tamale-guy- ... male%20guy

    http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fu ... D=36894035

    Also does anybody remember the original lindo mexico on Lincoln ave. in LP, back in the early/late 90's...I loved their tamales but they are long gone.

    Although its a delta tamale, if you havent been to J's meats and market on the west side that is a real gemmer not to be missed for any tamale fan as well.
  • Post #14 - April 10th, 2008, 8:00 am
    Post #14 - April 10th, 2008, 8:00 am Post #14 - April 10th, 2008, 8:00 am
    I posted about the Chilean humitas at Latin Sandwich Cafea few months ago, and a more recent visit has me standing by their deliciousness. They will be even better in the summer when the chef will hand-grind fresh, local corn.
  • Post #15 - April 10th, 2008, 8:15 am
    Post #15 - April 10th, 2008, 8:15 am Post #15 - April 10th, 2008, 8:15 am
    i'm also a big fan of the tamales at la casa del pueblo on blue island. it's worth adding that the refried beans (no lard-vegetarians take note) are out of this world. that's the main reason i'm a regular there. i take home a quarto of beans at a time and mix them with their incendiary pico de gallo.
  • Post #16 - April 10th, 2008, 8:03 pm
    Post #16 - April 10th, 2008, 8:03 pm Post #16 - April 10th, 2008, 8:03 pm
    In my opinion the best tamales in Chicago come from a group of Oaxacan women at the SE corner of 21st & Wolcott. Its just a few blocks south of the Mexican Museum of Art.

    Try the chicken tamales wrapped in banana leaves......outstanding.
  • Post #17 - April 11th, 2008, 1:34 am
    Post #17 - April 11th, 2008, 1:34 am Post #17 - April 11th, 2008, 1:34 am
    Da Beef wrote:The Tamale Guy/ Mr. Tamales- How can you not like it when the tamales come to you? For the older LTH crowd that rarely finds themselves in the "popular" bars after midnight...the tamale guy has been serving up his wifes homemade tamals to Chicago's bar scene for at least the last five years.

    The Tamale Guy selling his wares to late-night drinkers is following a Chicago tradition going back more than a century.

    Ninety nine years ago, The Chicago Daily Tribune wrote:From street corner to street corner, from saloon to saloon the hot tamale man makes his rounds from early in the evening until 8 [sic] or 4 o'clock in the morning.

    Today there are still numerous tamaleros plying their trade in taverns across the city (not only at the "popular" bars). Most of them don't have a MySpace page though.

    After an evening of imbibing, there are few more welcome sights than one of these guys coming through the door bearing an Igloo cooler full of tamales (generations ago it would have been a wooden box or a lard pail).
  • Post #18 - April 11th, 2008, 8:30 am
    Post #18 - April 11th, 2008, 8:30 am Post #18 - April 11th, 2008, 8:30 am
    Rene G wrote:The Tamale Guy selling his wares to late-night drinkers is following a Chicago tradition going back more than a century.

    Ninety nine years ago, The Chicago Daily Tribune wrote:From street corner to street corner, from saloon to saloon the hot tamale man makes his rounds from early in the evening until 8 [sic] or 4 o'clock in the morning.

    Today there are still numerous tamaleros plying their trade in taverns across the city (not only at the "popular" bars). Most of them don't have a MySpace page though.

    After an evening of imbibing, there are few more welcome sights than one of these guys coming through the door bearing an Igloo cooler full of tamales (generations ago it would have been a wooden box or a lard pail).


    Very interesting...you learn something new* every day.

    *- at LTHforum
  • Post #19 - April 23rd, 2008, 10:48 am
    Post #19 - April 23rd, 2008, 10:48 am Post #19 - April 23rd, 2008, 10:48 am
    Maybe this thread should be moved to eating out in....

    I had a couple buddies that wanted to do a tamale taste off yesterday, so we visited two places in Mexico...Pilsen and Little Village.

    We sampled six different tamale spots with la casa del pueblo and el milagro stealing the limelight. I have a hard time believing that I will find tamales anywhere better than these spots. El milagro won the taste off due to their nice sized chucks of pork in the pork tamal's. La casa was as good as always but now that I have taken the trip to a different el milagro (one on Belmont closed) I can reaffirm they have the best tamals ever. Another reason I give el milagro the title is their selection of different variety offered, I was also a big fan of the pepper and cheese and the bean cheese and on Friday's they offer shrimp tamales. Didnt have a chance to try the taco dorados or other intriguing stuff on the menu but ill be back for these tamales often this summer.

    Taqueria El Milagro
    3050 W 26th St
    Chicago, IL 60623
    (773) 847-9407
    $10.50/dozen

    La Casa Del Pueblo
    1810 S Blue Island Ave
    Chicago, IL 60608
    (312) 421-4640
  • Post #20 - April 27th, 2008, 7:21 pm
    Post #20 - April 27th, 2008, 7:21 pm Post #20 - April 27th, 2008, 7:21 pm
    Rene G wrote:The Tamale Guy selling his wares to late-night drinkers is following a Chicago tradition going back more than a century.

    Ninety nine years ago, The Chicago Daily Tribune wrote:From street corner to street corner, from saloon to saloon the hot tamale man makes his rounds from early in the evening until 8 [sic] or 4 o'clock in the morning.

    Today there are still numerous tamaleros plying their trade in taverns across the city (not only at the "popular" bars).


    The Chicago tamale sellers of 1909 were of a rather different heritage than those of today, according to the musical evidence:

    Image

    As mentioned in my linked post, it seems that early 20th century sellers were African Americans. That makes it seem likely they were selling Mississippi Delta-style tamales, or perhaps the Chicago corn roll had already started?
  • Post #21 - February 2nd, 2009, 1:58 pm
    Post #21 - February 2nd, 2009, 1:58 pm Post #21 - February 2nd, 2009, 1:58 pm
    I just wanted to add a note that El Milagro's eight or more varieties of tamales are available at their place in the North Riverside Mall. A buck each or a dozen for $10. Unfortunately, when I stopped by just before the mall closed yesterday afternoon, they were out. Fortunately they still had their wonderful pork guisado.

    Image

    More than I could finish for $5.25, including tax.

    Image


    Taqueria El Milagro
    7501 W Cermak Rd, Riverside
    (708) 447-5442
    (In the North Riverside Mall, in the food court by the movie theaters).
  • Post #22 - February 2nd, 2009, 2:37 pm
    Post #22 - February 2nd, 2009, 2:37 pm Post #22 - February 2nd, 2009, 2:37 pm
    Great reminder / find, Ann! I've walked past that place in the foodcourt several times without giving it a second look; didn't realize it was connected.

    I made a repeat visit to La Lupita in Berwyn (still writing it up) and have been really impressed by their offerings. Pricey like Tamale Hut Cafe but extremely high quality banana leaf and corn husk tamales (and both in red and green), plus the promise of tamales de elote in season.

    La Lupita
    6539 Cermak
    Berwyn
  • Post #23 - February 2nd, 2009, 4:46 pm
    Post #23 - February 2nd, 2009, 4:46 pm Post #23 - February 2nd, 2009, 4:46 pm
    Argh. Would that I had seen this before my brief excursion to the North Riverside Mall about 2 hours ago. Ah well, easy enough to stop by again later in the week I suppose. And now that the movie theater there is a Classic Cinemas I'll probably have to consider re-adding that to the possibles list once they have a better selection of films.

    Stopped by La Lupita yesterday for some pre-Super Bowl tacos and tamales. Happy with both once again, particularly the tamales. I'll echo santander's recommendation here, gladly.
  • Post #24 - February 17th, 2009, 12:17 am
    Post #24 - February 17th, 2009, 12:17 am Post #24 - February 17th, 2009, 12:17 am
    Ann Fisher wrote:I just wanted to add a note that El Milagro's eight or more varieties of tamales are available at their place in the North Riverside Mall. A buck each or a dozen for $10. Unfortunately, when I stopped by just before the mall closed yesterday afternoon, they were out. Fortunately they still had their wonderful pork guisado.

    Taqueria El Milagro
    7501 W Cermak Rd, Riverside
    (708) 447-5442
    (In the North Riverside Mall, in the food court by the movie theaters).


    There are a few locations in Chicago.

    3050 W 26th St, Chicago (773) 847-9407‎
    1923 S Blue Island Ave, Chicago (312) 433-7620‎
    1434 W Belmont Ave, Chicago (773) 975-2348

    I would be willing to bet they would have a similar selection of tamales.
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #25 - February 17th, 2009, 1:11 am
    Post #25 - February 17th, 2009, 1:11 am Post #25 - February 17th, 2009, 1:11 am
    The Belmont one has been closed for a year at least. It promises remodeling, but that seems unlikely.
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  • Post #26 - February 22nd, 2009, 8:08 pm
    Post #26 - February 22nd, 2009, 8:08 pm Post #26 - February 22nd, 2009, 8:08 pm
    I made it back to the El Milagro in the North Riverside mall yesterday before the tamales ran out. One pork in red sauce, one chicken in green. I have not sampled even the smallest fraction of Chicago's greatest tamales, but my gold standard are those served at Neuvo Leon, so it's not like I've never had a good one.

    I like the ones from El Milagro a lot. I started with the chicken, and when I unwrapped it I was a little disappointed that it was smaller than I'd expected and that there didn't seem to be much filling. But it was excellent. The filling held up to the masa just fine and though it was mild, it was certainly not boring. One of the better neat and tidy one dollar snacks around.

    The pork was anything but tidy--lots of red sauce got wiped off my fingers and onto my jeans on my way home (the dog was very interested in where I'd been--obviously he would have liked to have gone along). It was also much spicier than the chicken, but again not in any one-note sort of way. Another bargain. Next time I'll hold off long enough for some photos, I promise.
  • Post #27 - February 23rd, 2009, 4:30 pm
    Post #27 - February 23rd, 2009, 4:30 pm Post #27 - February 23rd, 2009, 4:30 pm
    I've been to that El Milagro branch several times in the past few weeks. I quite agree on the pork tamales - spicy, but not one-note - and found that I preferred them to the also quite good pork tamales at Tamale Hut Cafe just a short ways down Cermak. I thought the chicken came out about even between the two, and that THC had the edge in tamales dulce.

    That said, I find that I quite like the rather unusual taco prep at El Milagro. The single piece of steak rather than chopped steak, and rice, beans, and cabbage instead of onion and cilantro. It helps that the steak is clearly grilled, not griddled, and there appears to be no bucket o grease whatsoever. At $2.79 they are not value tacos, but are considerably more substantial than most.

    I've also enjoyed the guisado options that I've tried thus far, and my wife was quite happy with her milanesa torta that she had on Saturday, though the bread and toppings did slightly overwhelm the meat.
  • Post #28 - February 23rd, 2009, 6:41 pm
    Post #28 - February 23rd, 2009, 6:41 pm Post #28 - February 23rd, 2009, 6:41 pm
    ucjames wrote:That said, I find that I quite like the rather unusual taco prep at El Milagro. The single piece of steak rather than chopped steak

    UCJames,

    It's been a while since I've been to el Milagro, but I distinctly remember ordering a chicken taco and getting an entire chicken leg between two corn tortillas. I'd be more than a little apprehensive about ordering lengua (tongue). :)

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #29 - February 26th, 2009, 9:34 pm
    Post #29 - February 26th, 2009, 9:34 pm Post #29 - February 26th, 2009, 9:34 pm
    The best I've found since the closing of La Guadalupana on 26th Street are at Carniceria La Altena on Escanaba in the 8800 block. If you can't get there by about noon on Saturday they can run out, but if you call they'll hold them for you. Absolutely top-notch.

    Carniceria La Altena
    8827 S. Escanaba
    773-734-7070
    trpt2345
  • Post #30 - February 27th, 2009, 12:22 pm
    Post #30 - February 27th, 2009, 12:22 pm Post #30 - February 27th, 2009, 12:22 pm
    ucjames wrote:I've also enjoyed the guisado options that I've tried thus far, and my wife was quite happy with her milanesa torta that she had on Saturday, though the bread and toppings did slightly overwhelm the meat.


    Hey UCJ - I think I'm gonna try to get into that El Milagro for some early take out dinner tonight. I'll be trying any tamales that they have left (hopefully ALL.) Any recommendations on a guisado? Please post if even after today - still like to try any of them that are decent.

    P.s. I hope you guys have gotten into that Super Tony's grocery store over there. Pretty nice produce selection at a fraction of the regular Jewel pricing.
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.

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