While a large part of Austin’s populace has embraced the Mexican tradition of celebrating winter holidays, particularly Christmas, with heaps of fresh tamales, not all of us have the time or opportunity to take part in tamaladas where we can make our own or have friends, neighbors or family who can give or sell them to us.
Luckily for us, there are plenty of fantastic tamales — and an amazingly wide variety — to be found in restaurants and groceries all over town. Even if you haven’t already ordered yours (advance notice is usually the best practice), unless otherwise noted, these places will be taking orders through December 23.
Pork and chicken only; $10.99/dozen; $20 deposit; 24-hour notice; order in person
There are a few La Michocana Meat Markets around town, and while the chain stores certainly offer a full-service meat counter staffed with butchers, they also function as grocery stores, bakeries and killer hot lunch counters. Austin’s East Seventh Street location in particular has developed a reputation for great, extremely economical everyday Mexican dishes.
Brisket; $15/dozen; December 19 is the last day to order; (512) 380-9199
Since they are available only by order, we have not yet had a chance to taste Stiles Switch’s brisket — yes, brisket — tamales, but judging by their regular old, non-masa-encased brisket, they’re sure to be a hit.
Pork, chicken, jalapeño and cheese, bean and cheese, sweet potato, pineapple, strawberry; $12/dozen, $7/half-dozen; $1.50/apiece; 24-hour notice; (512) 292-8107
Though dubbed “basically a tamale factory” by a former local food writer, Mi Ranchito nonetheless manages to turn out some of the best around. Even if you aren't normally anywhere near its far south (as in: Manchaca, Texas) location, they’re worth the drive.
Pork, chicken, jalapeño and cheese, bean and cheese; $14/dozen, $8/half-dozen; 48-hour notice; $1.40/apiece; (512) 552-1200 (English), (512) 939-9051 (Spanish)
This food trailer (with a lovely patio area for seated dining) across from the Eastside Pies at Angelina Strret and Rosewood Avenue is a new addition to the neighborhood, but it’s already popular because it brings the goods. They do tamales on winter weekends and take orders during the holiday season only, so get ‘em while you can.
Bean, jalapeño and cheese, veggies, tofu; $6.95/half-dozen, $1.50 each; they have small orders prepackaged and ready; large fresh orders require three days’ advance notice; Cesar Chavez location: (512) 477-5228
Most veggie tamales aren’t vegetarian (as it’s standard to use mantenca/lard to mix the masa), but strictly meat-free folks can find the real deal at Mr. Natural.
And perhaps for your post-Christmas shindigs …
Pork, chicken, jalapeño and cheese, bean, sweet/raisin; they’ve stopped taking Christmas orders but will resume December 29; (512) 444-0012
A longtime favorite of Austinites, Curra’s has tamales on its menu year-round, and it’s the go-to for many a local for holiday orders. Their tamales are notably larger than average, but they’re moist and delicious all the way through. You just might not be able to eat more than one at a sitting.