CraveDFW: December 3rd 2012

By Steven Doyle

Duck season? Rabbit season? No, it’s tamale season. It’s that magical time of year when you buy up all the bounty brought forth by the older lady going door-to-door. This woman who wields a warm ice chest full of meat filled masa is as precious as her cargo, and we heartily anticipate her call.

What? You don’t have a tamale lady in your neighborhood? You could certainly make your own, or check out one of several pretty amazing tamale makers in the Dallas area. We have a list.

Cuquita’s Restaurant: Owned by the Villafranca family and located in Farmers Branch, Cuquita’s is proud of their tamales, as they should. The airy tamal is heavy on meat and light on masa making for an excellent example of a tamale. Cuquito’s recently made the list of Texas Monthly’s best and for a good reason. They make tamales daily to keep up with demand, and also are famous for their handmade corn tortillas made with the same masa. Their jalapeno and tomatillo salsa is also a good accompaniment.

La Popular Tamale House: Located in East Dallas la Popular is extremely popular for tamales. I am generally leery of restaurants with their featured item in their name (see: Chili’s), but Popular lives up to the name serving a wide range of tamales. For the less intrepid food traveler you may also find the tasty tamale in Shed #2 at the Dallas Farmers Market. Although not extremely large, the tamale is packed with flavor and priced well.

Luna’s Tortilla: Founded in 1924 the family operated factory provides tortillas, tamales and other hand crafted specialties to many local restaurants and hotels, but they also sell direct to the public out of their tiny Harry Hines factory. You will find daily breakfast and lunch specials to take-away but the big seller here during holidays are the tamales. Luna’s takes orders early and will sell out quickly, spending days and nights working to fill the many orders.

What makes Luna’s so very special is their masa; it is made from scratch daily and receives regular shipments of corn stored in the silo found in the front of the building. They also believe that a tamale should be more meat that masa, a formula many cooks seem to forget. Place your orders early for holiday parties.

Tortilleria Tuzantla: New to the tamale scene in Oak Cliff, Tortilleria Tuzantla is family owned and operated with four generations of the Martinez family. Although their specialty lies in the tortillas they make, the tortilleria also hand spreads many dozens of tamales catering most to Day of the Dead, Christmas and New Year’s, but has them available throughout the year in many varieties of fillings.

La Victoria: Rounding up the list for our favorite tamales is another East Dallas gem. Serving sturdy enchiladas, homemade tortillas, and delightful tamales La Victoria receives top honors on all fronts. The La Victoria tamale is firm, fat and filled to the brim of their husks with a flavorful assortment of meats. The seating is limited but they sell the tamales by the dozen to go for your big holiday party.

Not interested in take-away tamales and prefer devouring them at a restaurant? We got you covered. Favorites include the tamales at Komali on Cole near Uptown (they also have the best margaritas in Dallas). Also we love the tamales at Mextopia on Greenville Avenue, Meso Maya on Preston at Forest Lane, Mr Mesero on Knox and Mia Dia From Scratch in Grapevine.

Grab a tamale and celebrate the season with spice.