Where to Buy Tamales in Orange County for the Holidays, 2014 Edition
This is hilarious. Every year around this time, I get asked where to buy the best tamales in Orange County.
Really, the answers rarely change. Below is the article on the subject I did last year, which itself is mostly a retread of a story I did back in 2007. This time around, a shout-out to the awesome tamales de calabaza over at Taco Maria, as well. And don't bother with El Toro Meat Market's grease pools of masa. Anyhoo, enjoy the recap! And, yes, Virginia: Mexis eat tamales for Thanksgiving, too!
ORIGINAL POST, DEC. 14, 2011: Because nothing exists on the Internet before three days ago, I'm reprinting a 2009 article I did on the best tamales in Orange County for the holidays--and I'm also ripping off a 2007 article I did on the same
subject. I will also note that Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen and Taco María
make great high-falutin' tamales, as well. Anyhoo, the retread!
Almost three years ago, I wrote up this round-up
of the county's best places to get tamales. Rivera's is unfortunately
closed, and I still don't understand why Central and South Americans
prepare tamales (with the exception of Nicaraguans and the Guatemalan
pache), but the review still holds true. But other places have emerged
over the years that belong on the list--let's first start, however, with
Orange County's oldest Mexican restaurant, with an emphasis on what its name says. The perfect pork tamale: stringy, firm masa, slightly red, a bit spicy. 2218 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana, (714) 558-8650.
Not a tamale, but you get the picture...
Sellers of the King of the Tamale Kingdom: the mole negro tamal, a brick of soft masa wrapped in a banana leaf and made with chocolate. Not the sweet you'd imagine, but a sweetness for the ages, a bittersweet paste that will stain your fingertips so deeply even a thousand licks won't make it go away--and you don't want that, anyway. 700 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 773-4290; also at 10444 Dale Ave., Stanton, (714) 252-9120; www.restaurantelfortin.com
Michoacán-style restaurant that sells the tamales your pocho co-workers bring in for the staff potluck, but don't order those. Stick with the huchepo, a small tamale prepared with corn masa so fresh it contains kernels, topped with Mexican sour cream, sweet cheese and a delicious green salsa. Only place in la naranja that sells them. 1524 S. Flower St., SanTana, (714) 545-5584.