Tamale Safari

Eating our way through every darn tamale in Southern California (and the world?)

Update: Tamales Albertos September 2013

It’d been quite awhile since I had a good tamale. The summer heat wave hasn’t exactly been Tamale weather. But the fall winds got me craving tamales so I headed down to the always reliable Tamales Albertos. Whoa! New paint job inside and out.

Tamales Albertos - New paint. Same location

Tamales Albertos – New paint. Same location

The price of their tamales also went up to $1.50 a piece from $1.30. (That paint must’ve been expensive.)

Mole and green chile Chicken tamales

Mole and green chile Chicken tamales

The flavor is still good and the green chile chicken pack a nice, spicy punch. I did notice that the amount of filling is less than it was when we first reviewed “Albertos.” This left the masa to filling balance a bit off for me.

Other changes are longer hours (open until 8pm) and someone actually speaks English.

Still a good deal.

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California Dreamin’; California Tamales House

Let’s face it… I rarely go to the Valley or Valley adjacent. As far as I’m concerned those are the wilds of Los Angeles, but a good Tamale Safari is filled with adventure so off we went to The California Tamales House in North Hills. (And by hills they mean strip malls;) Continue reading

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Tamara’s Tamales; Posh Spice

Let’s face it, when hunting for the best tamales in Southern California, the tendency is to look to towards the Eastside of town. However Tamara’s Tamales proves you “Westsiders” still have hope. But don’t let their gorgeous plates from the 99 cent store fool you. These beauties come at premium (a.k.a. westside) prices. Vaya con Dios. Continue reading

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Hello Tamale Freaks.

We will be converting the site to another format which will make it easier to view on mobile devices. This means that there might a few adjustments that need to be made to previous posts. Pardon any redundancy in the posts via your feeds. We’ll try to be quiet….

We know you like your tamales on the run so hopefully this short disruption will be worth it.

Thanks!!

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Tamales Alberto; take the money and run

We have been on a tamale drought for the last month or so but the moment I spotted Tamales Alberto, I knew the drought was over.

Rants, Raves and Reviews…

Rosemary

Upon arrival to Tamales Alberto, we immediately tried to pin down our location. Were we in Echo Park? Silverlake? Downtown? A couple dining inside gave away the answer. Decked out in Dodger shirts and accessories, these folks from Fresno were on their weekly pilgrimage to find the best Mexican food before heading over to Chavez Ravine to check in on the ball game. And in the shadow of the stadium, this place was a true home run.

On a quiet Sunday morning, parking was plentiful and free. Tamales Alberto has a colorful storefront on a dull section of Temple. The small restaurant serves 4 types of Tamales: Cheese and jalapeño, chicken & green sauce, pork in red sauce & chicken mole. We ordered one of each and I tried to get a little insurance by asking for some hot sauce.

Our Dodger friends assured us that the hot sauce was not necessary. And they were right! Spicy, rich flavorful and delicious tamales. Served warm & freshly steamed. And did I say cheap? So far, I would have to rate Alberto at the top of the tamale list!

Masa: rich, flavorful and delicious. They got it right.

Filling: spicy chunks of chicken & pork. Copious amounts of cheese. Hmmm.

Presentation: ok, not fancy but functional, plastic plates & utensils. A rickety screen door.

Location: stars – great pit stop on the way to a ball game, otherwise a little off the beaten track. But well worth it!

Magda

There is something about a tiny dive on a stretch of Temple in East Hollywood adjacent that reeks of tamale goodness. You would never think about stopping around here. (Unless you are a hipster Vegan and know of the place across the street which really seems out of place. I digress)

The first thing to know is that this place seems to be more of a takeout joint but there are 3 or 4 tables available in this completely unadorned space. But don’t let this prevent you from making the trip because These tamales are some of the best I’ve tasted. First of all these beauties are not the usual made-the-day-before-and-warmed-in-a-microwave variety. The make them fresh daily (or is it hourly) and you get yours straight out of the steamer.

The service is Spanish only so our Spanglish resulted in each of us getting 4 different tamales rather than our usual 4 to share. No worries. Each tamale was $1.30. Yeah, we were living large.

The Green Chile Chicken are the spiciest green chile tamales that I have ever eaten. So good and moist. The same can be said for the Chile Cheese which have large slices of poblano, tomato and mexican cheese. I also sampled the Red Chicken Mole which were good but not remarkable.

If I had to pick my top 3 tamale joints in LA, Tamales ALberto would be one of them. They close early so plan accordingly.

Masa: Corny, in a good way not greasy. Perfect.

Filling: The best Green Chile Cheese sauce filling ever.

Presentation: Plastic forks and styrofoam plates, meh.

Location: You would never think to stop there. Street and alley parking is OK though, for a quick bag of takeout tamales.

Tamales Alberto
1644 W Temple St, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Hours:
Weekdays 7am-7pm
Weekends 6am-2pm

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Grocery store tamales; Paper or plastic?

This week we decided to try something a little different. We’ve been wondering if it is possible to get a decent or even half-way decent tamale at your local grocery store. We thought they could be handy in an emergency situation. The results were so horrifying that we cannot include our usual rating system.

Read on and do not try this at home.

Pretty on the outside but evil lurks inside.

Rosemary’s Raves and Rants:

OK, we all know that anyone who would make their life’s work reviewing and searching for the best Tamales is already positioned to be a Tamale Snob. So why would we venture into the supermarket aisle in search of a decent Tamale?

Why would we even consider trying one of the frozen hockey pucks brimming with chemicals preservatives and heaven only knows what other ingredients? Because we are dedicated, and someone needs to determine the edibility factor and, if luck might have it, answer the question: is there a decent Tamale lurking out there in the chain stores that might do in a pinch? Well, there is. Trader Joe’s.

THe chicken & the chile cheese are both surprisingly good. Microwaving is probably not the best way to warm them, but you can’t argue with the convenience. The texture of the masa is fine, and the flavor is pretty good. Throw a little hot sauce and a side salad and you can make a good meal.

But that’s it. Don’t go any further into the abyss. Forget the DeliMex by Heinz. Do not open the Hormel can of Tamales. Avoid the El Monterey. And for god’s sake, don’t buy the Xlnt brand. Even the dogs passed.

Hormel canned tamales

Hormel canned "tamales"

Tamales even a dog would hate

Tamales even a dog would hate.

Magda’s Rants. Only Rants:

The big question I have to ask is “Who is buying these?” I know that XLNT and Hormel have been around since I was a kid and I couldn’t believe it when I found them in the grocery store freezer. Haven’t our taste buds evolved? (Full disclosure: My mom actually ate them once in awhile.)

Reading the ingredient list is enough to send you to the ER. (Oddly enough the Hormel canned tamales were the only ones with all natural ingredients.)

Stop it people!!!! Don’t eat this crap anymore. That is all.

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Tamales Liliana’s; Dry and Drizzled

I had high hopes for Tamales Liliana’s since they were one of last year’s contestants on NBC’s “Today in LA Tamale Contest” but these tamales typify everything I dislike about most tamales… too dry and “where’s the beef??!” Rosemary is a tad more generous than I so read on…

Rants, Raves, and Reviews

Rosemary
We haven’t been on a Safari for a couple of weeks, so I was really looking forward to hunting down our next great tamale. Liliana’s sounded good and Magda opted for the Caeser Chavez location because of the freeway proximity off the 710. So upon arrival, I was surprised by the size of the building and the expansive but full parking lot. This was no “fly by night” tamale stand, these people were tamale serious. And so were we.

Magda snagged a table out front -a good tactical move because the line waiting for an inside table was long. The service was good and friendly and we ordered the spectrum -the raja con queso, the pollo con veggies, the rojo con carne and pork.

Green Chicken Tamales eaten only after being drizzled with salsa

The Tamales came fairly quickly, but they were varying degrees of warmth…not hot and some were lukewarm. The paper wrappings looked a little funky & greasy but they were decent size. The tastiest was the Raja con Queso -The warm melted cheese was delicious and made up for the dry masa, which we found consistent in all the tamales. The chicken tamale was tasty as well, with veggies supplying the rich texture that the pork and beef tamales lacked. The good news though is that these people make a killer salsa. So the dry and crumbly texture of the masa was countered by copious amounts of salsa verde and everything tasted pretty good.

Ok, maybe not at the top of my tamale list, but I’d come back just for the hot sauce. I also ordered a half dozen to go (the family perk for my obsession) and they were steaming hot. Oh well.

Rosemary Rates

Masa: Dry, a bit crumbly.

Filling: The Meat was dry as well, stick with the cheese & green chili – I’m going to upgrade this category from 3 to 4 stars because if you throw enough salsa on them, they are pretty darn good.

Presentation: No imagination here but no real complaints….plastic dishes & rickety tables. Tamales are plain wrapped and stacked.

Location: Easy parking in the very crowded lot. Those parking guys are good!

Magda
When I arrived, the line to get into Tamales Liliana’s resembled the lines you see at the Apple store before an iPad launch. Fortunately this was only the line to eat inside the restaurant. There are a few tables outside the restaurant which more than suited our needs on this typically beautiful Southern California Sunday. I snagged one and waited for Rosemary to drive into the lot. They have valet parking and she joined the table immediately.

I’m just going to say it, these are the driest tamales I’ve had in ages. They are almost unedible. Fortunately, their excellent green and red salsas saved the day. After you drizzle some of this magic elixer on the tamales they had pretty good flavor. The masa is spiced properly but there was far too much of it and wow, so dry.

Chicken vegetable tamales.

We sampled chile cheese, chicken vegetable, beef, and green chile chicken tamales. Frankly only the chicken veggie were easy to distinguish. There was so little filling in these masa balls, the filling doesn’t really matter. They also have sweet tamales and “elote” which we passed on. Clearly the draw here must be the other items on the menu because the restaurant was packed. But I am mystified that the word “Tamales” is in the name of the restaurant. Maybe “Menudo Liliana’s” is a better and more truthful approach.

Magda Rates

Masa: Dry. Masa gets dry when tamales are overcooked so this also explains the bland filling. I only give this one star because it did taste good with the salsa. Cornmeal is hard to ruin completely.

Filling: Pretty flavorless and very little of it. I couldn’t tell if I was eating chicken, beef, or pork.

Presentation: The service was excellent. Paper plates and plastic forks were usable.
I am giving this 3.5 for the nice waiter.

Location: Great location right off the 710 or 60 freeways. Lots of valet parking and plentiful street parking on Sundays.

Tamales Liliana's Restaraunt

Tamales Liliana’s has two locations in East Los Angeles. The restaurant on Cesar Chavez is the original location and also houses their “tamale factory.” Tamales are reasonably priced at $1.50 each and can also be purchased by the dozen for $18.

Tamales Liliana’s
4629 E Cesar E Chavez Ave, Los Angeles, CA.
and 3448 East 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA

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