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.
Rants, Raves, and Reviews…
A tale of two suburbs and their tamales…
Ok, I live on the Westside. And besides the usual crowd & traffic complaints, there is a “stupid” tax for all of us who are stupid enough to put up with the higher prices that seem to be charged on nearly everything. So after a big sigh, and knowing that delicious tamales are available at a buck and some change just by traveling east, I sat down to study the menu of $4 plus tamales. In a crummy strip mall. Across the street from Costco.
But Tamara knows her tamales, and frankly, I am impressed. Besides an amazing selection, they were fresh, delicious and steamed to perfection. From the crab tamale at a whopping $6.95 (well worth it if you love crab) to the sublime jalapeno cheese (it’s got heat!) these Tamales are big, bold and well worth the price if you factor in the convenience of Westside dining.
Masa: No problems here: rich & savory
Filling: Amazing selection: we loved all the traditional flavors. Ingredients were fresh, helpings were generous. The Greek was interesting but we had less enthusiasm for the Nacatamal, the Nicaraguan Tamale in banana leaves.
Presentation: All Tamales were paper wrapped and served on Our Lady of Guadalupe plastic platters, direct from the 99cents store. We had a little trouble identifying the assortment.
Location: The small restaurant looks “westside goth” -you know, the purple walls and mismatched decor with an LA Weekly on every table. The parking was easy… but late on a Saturday afternoon might have had something to do with it.
These were some of the best tamales we’ve had so far. They also have a very extensive and diverse menu which I doubt anyone else will match. Yup, I don’t ever expect to see a $6.95 king crab tamale on the eastside menus anytime soon.
I orginally heard of Tamara’s Tamales from their excellent tamale cookbook, but I didn’t realize that the restaurant was located here in Los Angeles. It’s not actually a restaurant. Situated in a tiny strip mall across the street from Costco in Marina Del Rey, it’s more of a “slow-fast-food” place. The decor can best be described as a very casual “surfer-mex.” I love the Virgen de Guadalupe inspired art which includes plates from the 99 cent store which I would love to have.
The tamales seem to be made to order, but some of the fillings were so unusal, it’s hard to tell. Everything was hot and moist so I didn’t get the sense that they were made ahead and warmed up. We made a point to order some of the more unusual fillings since we were pretty sure we weren’t going to see them on any other menu in the future.
They have a great selection of vegetarian and vegan tamales. I enjoyed the “Calabacita” the best. The Greek tamale was interesting as well, but I’m not a huge fan of feta cheese which this one has.
Our guest on this safari ordered the mighty King Crab tamale which he slathered with red salsa. It was pretty delicious but I might need to try one without all the salsa. I never like to sample tamales with salsa. I think they should be able to stand on their own without it.
Speaking of salsa, Tamara’s red and green salsas are outstanding. They also sell them by the pint “to-go” which I wish I had known while I was there.
The only disappointing tamale was the green chile cheese which for some reason included a red marinara sauce. Weird. This is one experiment I would leave off the menu.
Tamara’s Tamales isn’t for the budget conscious, but all-in-all a successful outing.
Masa: Perfect. Just how I make it.
Filling: Amazing selection of savory, sweet, vegetarian. Not your grandma’s tamale store.
Presentation: LOVE!!!!! The Virgen de Guadalupe plates. It was sort of difficult to tell fillings apart when wrapped.
Location: Strip mall with few parking spaces. It could get dicey during lunch and dinner. Across from the hellish Costco traffic lines. (Did I mention that I am amazed so many Westsiders shop at Costco? Maybe to offset the tamale prices?)
13352 West Washington Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90066-5108
Prices range from $4.00-$6.95 per each tamale.
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