The Tamale Lady in front of the Mexican Embassy

No offense to the sombrero cart on 50th St. btw. 6+7th, but for the most part the Mexican Food in Midtown sucks.  For the best Mexican food in the U.S., the closer you get to the source, like L.A. or Texas, the better the food is going to be.  So it should be no surprise that the best Mexican food in Midtown can be found right in front of the Mexican Embassy, on 39th St. btw. Park + Madison.

 Just like the ballfields in Red Hook, supply follows demand.  Want to serve pupusas from El Salvador?  Go to where the Salvadoreans play futbol on the weekends.  Homemade tamales?  Head to the Mexican Embassy, where a lady sits out front all day long selling tamales and hot drinks (cold in the summertime) to those waiting outside.

A big bag o tamales, and a +/- after the jump…

I speak a little bit of Spanish, so it wasn’t too hard to communicate my order- but luckily the menu is not that extensive.  Tamale.  Drink.  Easy enough.  With my rudimentary Spanish, I determined that there were three tamale choices (Pork, chicken or cheese), and each was $1.25.  With those ridiculously cheap prices, I ordered one of each.

I took my bag of tamales to the curb and dug in.  The pork one was pretty easy identify:

But the other two were a little tougher.  I thought one was just cheese, but both seemed to have chicken, and one of them had cheese and a green pepper that I’m guessing was a poblano chili (but I’m not sure.)  Maybe I’m not so good at speaking Spanish after all.  Of course, I’ll eat anything so I didn’t really care.  All three were delicious, and mildly spicy (for people who like spicy.  For people who don’t, they could be considered “very spicy”)

She also had two drinks for sale.  A hot chocolate, and an “arroz con leche”, a sweet and hot milk drink with rice in it.  Both were $2.50, and perfect for the winter weather. (In the warmer months, she has cold drinks.)

Cheap, authentic Mexican food made for Mexican people.  What more could you want?  And at $1.25 a piece, how can there be any complaints about the tamales- but I’ve still go to do the +/-

The + (What somebody who loves this place would say)

  • I love tamales!
  • Super cheap
  • Authentic Mexican food, made for Mexican people (i.e. not typical Midtown Mexican)
  • I eat everything, so not knowing what’s in each tamale isn’t that big a deal

The – (What somebody who wouldn’t like this place would say)

  • I don’t speak Spanish, so I didn’t know what I was ordering
  • I’m a vegetarian, and am afraid of getting meat in my Tamale
  • I don’t eat pork, and don’t speak Spanish, so how do I know there’s no pork in my tamale?
  • I don’t like spicy food
  • I like Chipotle.

The Tamale Lady outside the Mexican Embassy, 27 E. 39th St. (btw. Mad+Park)


  • Oooh! I love tamales and have been on a quest to find good ones around midtown or below. I ended up at Las Poblanitas the other day which was decent. Thank you so much for bring this to everyone’s attention!

  • Can’t a person like both authentic Mexican food and Chipotle?

  • I kid people who like Chipotle. I kid!

  • I walk past the embassy every single day, even work right across from it, and have never dared approach the lady with her wares. Thank you, Zach, for, as always, boldly going where no Midtown foodie has gone before. I LOVE tamales. I may have to try.

  • Were three tamales sufficient for a hearty and filling noon meal?

  • This sounds awesome though I’ve never seen her.

    Zach, you also ought to check out the Tacos from Le Croissant shop on 6th avenue between 39th and 38th. They do some pretty authentic Mexican tacos- 3 for 6.75 and they have pork chicken and steak. I tried all 3 and I thought all were pretty good.

    They do Tamales there too, but I’ve yet to try them.

  • The chipotle line was the funniest part!
    Those tamales look good. Man, I can’t wait to go home for Christmas!!

  • Zach, you need to tell us whether the 3 tamales were enough food to fill you up. I’m guessing they’re a good snack but I’d need at least 5 for a full meal, no?

  • Today I got two tamales and then stopped by the soup vendor on 41st and Park for a large chicken gumbo (closest thing he had to a “Mexican” soup). A good, big meal for $8.50.

  • I wouldn’t call it a “balanced” lunch, but 3 was definitely filling. I’m sure the “arroz con leche” helped too…

  • man that looks good. my question is if i don’t know any spanish, is ordering going to be possible?

  • Shout ‘Immigration!!!, freeze!’ during busy lunchtimes to gain rapid queue advancement.

  • You shouldn’t have any trouble ordering Danny.
    There’s chicken, cheese, and pork. The lady probably knows enough english to translate the options.

    1,2, 3 (uno, dos, tres) and pork (puerco), cheese (queso) or chicken (pollo).

    Hand her some money and don’t forget to tip. She doing us all a favor by providing authentic eats for a fraction of what you’d pay at a restaurant.

  • Hahahaha I saw this and was like, oh my friend has been going on and on about tamales, let me send this to her, and I do, then I see she already commented :P Too bad I’m so not into masa =(

  • Rudy McB,
    You are funny!

  • like is not an adjective.

  • Thanks for the tip. I’ve missed the tamale ladies and gentlemen who prowled the offices in downtown Houston. Dame tres tamales de puerco por favor!

  • For all those Spanish challenged folks out there, yeah, ordering should not be a problem. For vegetarians, on the other hand…the rice milk and chocolate are good :)

    And tamales is the plural, tamal (not “tamale”) the singular.

    McBagel, you’re about as funny as a detention center.

  • If you are lucky you can even get food AND entertainment when you check out the frequent street protesters lined up in barricades next to the Mexican consulate…

  • Finally tried this today. 3 tamales for $4.75 cannot be beat. Very filling. I actually thought the cheese was the best- it was very spicy compared to the other 2 and had some chorizo like sausage inside of it.

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