The 12 Best Tamales In Los Angeles Accessible By Metro
Car-free in Los Angeles but need to pick up a dozen or so tamales this holiday season? We got your back. From tender banana leaf-wrapped tamales to CDMX-style guajolotongos tamales stuffed with chilaquiles, go Metro to attain your masa fix.
7:11 AM PST on December 12, 2023
For many of us, the gifts we look forward to unwrapping the most during the holidays don't come wrapped with gift wrap but in delicate layers of corn husk and banana leaf that reveal plump forms of tender masa stuffed with stewed meat, cheese, and vegetables. In other words, tamales.
Today, we're talking about L.A.'s best tamales you can order to feed your family and friends, or just to store in your freezer to eat one-by-one whenever you feel like it because you made it through another year!
It's that particular time of year known as "tamal season," which roughly begins the day after Thanksgiving and lasts until New Year's and Dia de La Candelaría on February 2nd (that's the holiday when whoever gets the plastic baby Jesus figurine during Dia de Los Reyes has to treat everyone else in that group to a tamal feast).
During this shift, the city is infused with frenetic energy as everyone attempts to secure a bag of masa-encased goodness. Gente flock to their favorite spots to grab dozens upon dozens to take home and share with their families.
Traditional Mexican-style tamales are made with prepared masa and contain red or green pork or beef fillings, rajas (jalapeños) con queso, and various sweet incarnations, including the sometimes elusive hot pink strawberry tamal This being L.A., we’re fortunate to have a variety of Central and South American-style tamales available for our enjoyment, as well as regional Mexican delicacies such as guajolotongos and uchepos.
While we honor the traditional styles of tamales out there, there is also a group of chefs and cocinerxs forging new paths when developing their own take on the tamal, applying new methods and dietary choices to create different flavors and textures.
It’s no doubt an exciting time to be a tamal-eater. However you choose to celebrate the season this year, here are some options to choose from so that you and your family can unwrap something nice.
The best part about these 12 mouthwatering tamales? You don't need a car to pick them up. Go Metro...to attain holiday masa bliss.
Poncho’s Tlayudas ~ Historic South Central
L.A.’s master of moronga gets down on tamales with the same precision and passion that he does when grilling up his famous namesake tlayudas. With Oaxaca ever in his heart, Zapotec chef Alfonso Martinez prepares an avocado leaf-tinged masa, offering three types of mole as accompaniment a mole negro, mole amarillo, and mole verde. In other words, you'll probably need to try all three at this definitive bastion of OaxaCalifornia culture and flavor.
4318 Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90037. Closest Metro lines and stops: Bus Line 48 - "Main/43rd" or Bus Line 105 - "Vernon/Main."
Angry Egret Dinette ~ Chinatown
Pico Rivera-raised chef Wes Avila and his Angry Egret crew have brought back their Christmas Eve tamales again this year, cranking out three varieties that are sold by the dozen: red pork, sweet potato and cheese, and a mole with tender chicken. One flavor per dozen, with pre-orders being taken now for pickup on December 23 or 24 between 9 AM to 2 PM.
970 N. Broadway Suite 114, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 45 - “Broadway/Bernard” or Metro A Line - "Chinatown Station."
Mr. Menudo Oficial ~ Bellflower
For those who demand a hot bowl of menudo paired with their tamales, Mr. Menudo Oficial sells them year-round using the recipes of owner Roger Mendez's father, Joel, whose work at East L.A.’s Juanito’s Tamales was praised by late critic Jonathan Gold. You can always find tamales with pork, rajas, and chicken chile verde here. Currently, Mr. Menudo is also selling the Mexico City specialty of “guajolotongos,” in which he takes one of these tamales, bisects it, then layers it with a substantial spoonful of chilaquiles.
16203 Clark Ave. #E Bellflower, CA 90706. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 127 or 128 - “Alondra/Clark.”
Guerrilla Tacos ~ Downtown
Pick up a tamal kit to stage your own makeshift tamalada with the help of your friends at Guerilla Tacos. You'll get your choice of filling: beef, chicken, or rajas con crema. Each $85 kit makes 30 tamales, so you and your family/homies can get down, get your hands covered in masa, and have enough for everyone to take a few home. As they say here, "All the fun of making tamales with a third of the work!" Order online 48 hours before pick-up, 12-7 P.M. through Dec. 20.
2000 E 7th St. Los Angeles, CA 90021. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 60 or 62 - “7th/Imperial (westbound)” or "7th/Santa Fe (eastbound)."
Tamales Elena ~ Watts
Tamales Elena is one of L.A.'s first regional food trucks to celebrate Afro-Mexican influences from the state of Guerrero in its cooking. Their signature, uber-tender, banana leaf-wrapped tamales are served year-round, along with their hoja de maíz (corn husk) tamales with proteins and fillings like red pork, green chicken, strawberry, and cheese-and-jalapeno. Call to place orders by the half or full dozen, which are being taken for December 12, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Day with a 50% deposit.
Wilmington Ave & E 110th St. Angeles, CA 90059. Closest Metro lines and stop: Metro A and C Lines or Bus Lines 53, 55, 120, 202, or 205 - “Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station.”
La Mascota ~ Boyle Heights
You won't find a better place to head for the classics than Boyle Heights. La Mascota, a bakery that also sells several tamales, is consistently the recipient of widespread love, both locally and across L.A. The seasoning of their masa is wonderful, free of the pronounced aftertaste of maíz. The mole tamal is light and herbal, and the tamal rojo is juicy, with mellow hints of spices. Additional varieties include tamales with pineapple, red chile beef, and vegetables in a banana leaf wrapper.
2715 Whittier Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90023. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 18 - “Whittier/Orme (eastbound) or "Whittier/Mott (westbound).
Los Cinco Puntos ~ Boyle Heights
At an iconic intersection of Boyle Heights sits Los Cinco Puntos, which is not only an Eastside institution for carnitas, but also has fantastic tamales. The beef tamal rojo is slightly greasy, in that ideal tamal way, and perfectly steamed. Since Cinco Puntos specializes in pork, it comes as no surprise that the red pork tamal takes the crown. And we cannot stress enough: make sure to get a carnitas taco topped with nopales and guacamole for another taste of heaven when you stop by to pick up your dozen to hold you over.
3300 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave. Boyle Heights, CA 90023. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 70 - “Cesar E Chavez/Indiana” or Metro E Line - "Indiana Station."
La Indiana Tamales ~ East L.A.
First of all, don't mind the line that comes with every December at this neighborhood gem known for its tamales. It goes quickly and is worth the wait for six varieties of tamales (pork, green chile-and-cheese, red chile-and-beef, green chile-and-cheese, chicken-and-vegetable and a sweet version with ) that La Indiana always serves to you piping hot and insanely delicious.
1142 S. Indiana St, Los Angeles, CA 90023. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 62, 66, or 665 - “Olympic/Indiana.
Mi Ranchito Veracruz ~ North Hollywood
Banana leaves are the tamal-wrapping standard in the southern coastal state of Veracruz, where Pedro Barrientos, one of the co-owners of Mi Ranchito in North Hollywood, comes from. In addition to their popular tamal with pollo con mole, options include a vegetarian banana leaf-encased version of rajas con queso and a vegan tamal with oyster mushrooms, as well as flavors unique to Veracruz, like a pollo tamal con salsa morita. Regardless of the variety, all of these tamales are moist and delicious.
13363 Saticoy St, North Hollywood, CA 91605. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 169 - “Saticoy/Varna.
El Fogón Guatemalan Food Truck ~ Lawndale/Various pop-ups
For anyone interested in Guatemalan food, El Fogón is a great next stop. Located in the city of Lawndale, this little truck pumps out different styles of Guatemalan tamal by the ton. Their rotating daily specials in the holiday season consist of a few stellar tamal options, including traditional “Tamales Colorados,” made with chicken or pork and recado, and wrapped up in the requisite banana leaf. They also specialize in chuchitos, which are the smaller and more rotund versions made with chicken or pork, here wrapped in a corn husk. Hard-to-find patches, made with potatoes in place of masa, are also available here, with a vegetal flavor that makes for a memorable experience. Stay tuned to Instagram for pop-ups.
3850 Manhattan Beach Blvd. Lawndale, CA 90260. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 211 - “Prairie/Manhattan Beach.”
Manoly's Bakery & Cafe ~ Sawtelle/West L.A.
Manoly's is a small panaderia and cafe on Santa Monica Boulevard just west of the 405, one of a number of Oaxacan eateries and businesses operating for years in West L.A.'s Sawtelle neighborhood. You'll find fat, housemade tamales year-round here to enjoy with a big round taza of atole blanco bobbing with fresh kernels of corn. Three tamales await you, a chicken tamal covered in mole negro and steamed in a banana leaf, and two tamales with juicy chicken cooked in corn husks with your choice of red or green sauce. While the Westside has numerous tamal vendors who walk and stand on the street selling their goods, a permanent destination for tamales such as Manoly's and nearby Juquila are great arrows to have in your quiver when you're in the neighborhood.
11771 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90025. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 4 - “Santa Monica/Barrington.”
Olivia Wine Bar & Pizza ~ Koreatown
Chef Mario Albert makes some truly unique and inspired vegan tamales with a recipe handed down by his mom. There are two types of homemade masa: rosemary charcoal masa with jackfruit and chickpeas in a salsa of pasilla chiles and tomatillo. The second option is a thyme masa filled with eggplant and mushrooms with chile morita. They both are 100% plant-based, so your vegan or vegetarian friends and family will love you for them. - Vladimir Santos
205 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90004
Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 16, 204, and 754 - "Vermont/3rd" or Metro B Line - "Vermont/Beverly Station.”
This is a sponsored post by Metro Los Angeles.
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