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That’s a wrap: It’s that time — 10 places in the ABQ area to buy tamales

Illustration by Cathryn Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal

Pandemic or no pandemic, there’s one sure thing to take place during the holiday season – eating some good food.

In New Mexico, that good food includes tamales. While tamales are available all year, they take center stage during this time of year. Making them with family is a well-loved, labor-intensive tradition many New Mexicans enjoy. The process is time-consuming and can be expensive. It’s usually not worth the endeavor to make only a dozen or two. People usually end up spending an entire afternoon assembling enough tamales to feed a room full of hungry holiday revelers.

For those who don’t have the time, or the knowledge, purchasing from a local vendor or restaurant offers a convenient alternative.

Historians have traced tamales back to the Aztec empire. Tamales are made by smearing a thick layer of corn dough, called masa, onto a corn husk. They are layered with either meat, cheese or vegetables and then closed up for steaming. Tamales can be eaten by themselves, smothered with chile or as a side item.

We’ve compiled a list of 10 places around Albuquerque to buy tamales. We’ve included some old favorites, such as El Modelo, but we also picked some places that are not so well-known. The offerings include the traditional red chile pork tamales and some adventurous new varieties.

Covid-19 may affect the listed hours of operation. Please call to verify.

And a reminder, this is in no way an exhaustive list.

Did your favorite make the cut?

1. Kathy’s Carry Out
(after 5 daily) 873-3472; 823 Isleta SW
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily

Kathy’s Carry Out in the South Valley will be selling red chile pork tamales for the holidays for 20 a dozen. (Courtesy of Kathy Alvarez)

This affordable South Valley fast food gem opened 35 years ago. But don’t let the fast food model fool you. Kathy’s has authentic New Mexican food made fresh daily.

The small restaurant on Isleta SW once operated out of a small purple building with orange trim, also on Isleta. The restaurant moved to its more modern building down the road, adding a dine-in option. Patrons can also get their order for takeout, of course, and at the drive-through.

Red chile pork tamales are available every day after 5 p.m. Orders can be placed over the phone, but the restaurant’s popularity keeps the line busy at times.

Cost: $20 a dozen
Type: Red chile pork


2. El Modelo Mexican Foods
242-1843 1715; Second SW
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

A tamale plate from El Modelo Mexican Foods. (Elaine D. Briseno/Albuquerque Journal)

El Modelo is a juggernaut in the holiday tamale market. People line up Christmas Eve to buy these generous-sized holiday treats. The restaurant just south of Downtown is one of many old-school establishments in that area.

It’s in a modest adobe building with red trim and red awnings and has been in operation since 1929. It started as a tortilla “factory” in the home of Carmen Garcia, who got up at 2 a.m. to make the tortillas by hand. Two dozen or fewer tamales can be ordered the day of at the restaurant. Three dozen and more must be prepaid and ordered ahead of time, either over the phone or at the restaurant.

Cost: $33.98 a dozen
Type: Red chile pork, green chile chicken


3. La Mexicana Tortilla CO.

242-2558; 304 Coal SW
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Closed Sundays.

La Mexicana Tortilla Co. near Downtown serves hot dishes and also sells packaged New Mexico staples, such as beans and tortillas. (Elaine D. Briseno/Albuquerque Journal

La Mexicana Tortilla Co. is another longtime New Mexico business that got its start decades ago. Owner Margy Hernandez said her husband’s parents once operated a tortilla factory out of the building. They made corn tortillas daily, and there was even a machine in the lobby where people could buy fresh, hot corn tortillas.

They eventually expanded and began offering New Mexican dishes. The restaurant still makes its own corn tortillas and chips and has a full menu, which includes tamales.

Customers can buy packaged pinto beans, biscochitos, salsa, queso and chile from other local restaurants when they stop by to eat.

The restaurant also sells everything needed to make tamales, including a 5-pound bag of masa for $13 and a pound of corn husks for $7.99.

Red chile pork tamales are available daily, but Hernandez said those wanting the vegetarian or green chile chicken options should order a day ahead. Tamales are also available in cocktail size.

Cost: $25 a dozen for full size; $13.50 a dozen for cocktail tamales
Type: Red chile pork, green chile chicken and vegetarian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


4. Buen Provecho (Costa Rican Food)

550-9668; El Vado Motel, 2500 Central SW
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Buen Provecho restaurant is in the revamped El Vado Hotel. The restaurant offers eight different types of tamales. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Head chef and owner Kattia Rojas has been serving her unique Costa Rican dishes in Albuquerque for five years and recently moved into the revamped El Vado Motel along Central. In addition to her other Latin American dishes, she makes eight types of tamales, including vegan and vegetarian options. The tamales come in full sizes or appetizer size, half the size of the regular tamales.

“What we offer is very unique and different,” Rojas said. “Give us a try.”

Orders must be placed by Sunday to be picked up during the week. To place an order, call the number above or email buenprovechoalbuquerque@gmail.com.

Cost: Full size is $60 a dozen for the meat options, $48 for the vegan and vegetarian choices. Appetizer sizes are $45 a dozen for meat, $30 for vegan and vegetarian
Type: Mushroom tapenade, roasted peppers and cheese, rice and garbanzo, spicy black bean with jalapeños, chicken, pork, a mix of the two, and beans and chorizo


5. Vegos (vegan tamales)

373-4605
Hours and locations: Food truck, various locations and hours

This small food wagon specializes in vegan food and will be making tamales for the holidays. (Courtesy of Vegos)

Vegos specializes in vegan offerings. Just a year and a half old, it was among the top three food trucks in the Albuquerque Journal Readers’ Choice awards. The little brown wagon, which is hooked to the back of a truck, makes its rounds at Albuquerque breweries Thursday through Sunday. During December, it will be selling two types of tamales. The first will feature red chile jackfruit. The second will have vegan cheddar cheese, green chile and roasted tofu.

They can be purchased hot and cooked, or frozen and raw. The frozen tamales are available by the half-dozen or more.

Orders can be placed at the food truck. Visit vegosabq.com to see a schedule of locations.

Cost: $21 for a half-dozen, $36 for a dozen
Type: Red chile jackfruit, and vegan cheddar cheese, green chile and roasted tofu

6. El Super Markets

544-2919; 4201 Central NW
Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

A grocery store might not seem like the ideal location to purchase tamales, but this one specializes in Mexican cuisine.

The store has a kitchen that has daily offerings, including fresh tamales. Tamales can be ordered over the phone or in person.

Cost: $1.29 each, $7.50 per half-dozen, $14.99 for a dozen
Type: Red chile pork, beef, and jalapeño with cheese


7. B’s Home Cooking LLC.(food truck)

410-0999; southwest corner of Paseo del Norte and Universe NW
Hours: Most Saturdays starting at 11 a.m.

This West Side food truck called B’s is known for its delicious tamales. (Courtesy of B’s)

Bertha Almanzar, known as just B, has always worked for herself, taking various contracts around town. She bought what is now her food truck wagon, as a gift to herself in 2017.

“This is my toy,” she said. “It wasn’t supposed to be a job. Before, I would just go out and sell when I felt like it.”

She decided to take her bright yellow truck out regularly when a long-term contract came to an end.

She’s known for her tamales, but also offers posole, Indian tacos, Frito pies and enchiladas.

Cost: 2 for $5 or $25 a dozen, $5 for a pint of chile
Type: Red chile pork, green chile chicken

8. Santiago’s New Mexican Grill

292-8226; 1911 Eubank NE
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Breakfast is served all day. Lunch service starts at 10:30 a.m.

Jim “Santiago” Madrid opened Santiago’s in 1986 using recipes he learned from his parents while growing up in Albuquerque. The Madrid family still operates the restaurant today.

Santiago’s traditional New Mexican dishes, along with breakfast burritos, hamburgers and party-size dishes that can feed up to 20 people.

Tamales are available daily, but anyone wanting more than two dozen should call ahead.

Cost: $23.99 for a dozen tamales or chile rellenos. Each order comes with a pint of chile
Type: Red chile pork


9. Cervantes

262-2253; 5801 Gibson SE
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday.

Cervantes Restaurant will be selling tamales for the holidays. (Elaine D. Briseno/Albuquerque Journal

Cervantes is at Gibson and San Pedro. Its black, yellow-trimmed sign is like a beacon for those driving onn Gibson. The restaurant, which opened in 1976, has a festive decor and includes a lounge.

According to its website, founder Roberta Finley is a descendant of the Spanish immigrants who first settled the area.

This New Mexican restaurant is a local favorite. In the late 1990s it expanded to Cervantes Food Products Inc. and started selling red and green chile sauces and salsa. They will even mail a Chile Survival Kit out of state for those in need of a New Mexico chile fix.

Cost: $24 a dozen
Type: Red chile pork, green chile chicken and vegetarian


10. Sabroso Foods (tortilla factory)

842-5579; 1019 Sunset SW
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Sometimes the best chance of getting something authentic is by visiting a place that specializes in local staples. It’s hard to find on online footprint for Sabroso Foods, but it gets its business by word-of-mouth. Its reputation has made it a favorite of locals.

Sabroso is a tortilla factory that provides products for many locals restaurants, including some on this list. But they are also open to the public. Customers can purchase tortillas, fresh food and frozen tamales directly from factory that is housed in a yellow, metal building.

Cost: $18 a dozen
Type: Red chile pork and vegetarian  

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