Tamales Will Make the Perfect Cinco de Mayo Lunch

For those of you who are planning to forgo the $5 One Year Anniversary Go Go Curry deal going on today in favor of a lunch that celebrates Mexico’s defeat of the French at Puebla, I decided to put together a list of places to get tamales in Midtown. I know that tamales are not exclusively Mexican (especially alot of the ones you get in Midtown), but it’s Cinco de Mayo, and since this is a blog, I’m contractually obligated to do stupid theme posts on all holidays! (Don’t you know how it works?) Luckily tamales seem to popping up alot these days… plus, who doesn’t love tamales? There shouldn’t be alot of complaints about this one…

The list, and Midtown Tamale Map, after the jump…

1. The Tamale Lady @ the Mexican Embassy (39th btw. Mad+Lex) – This should be your first choice for tamales, not just because it’s Cinco de Mayo, and these can be found outside the Mexican Embassy… but just because they’re the most fun. You’d think that there was a chance she wouldn’t be here today, but she assured me last week, if the Embassy is open, she is there. And ladies and gentleman, today- the Embassy is open. At $1.25 per tamale (chicken, pork or cheese), it’s a deal that can’t be beat.

2. El Sabroso (37th btw. 7+8th) – This Latin/Peruvian counter hidden in a freight elevator hallway received a 9/10 from the Guardian UK. They also serve chicken tamales for $2 a piece.

3. Cafe O (41st btw. Lex+3rd) – I won’t usually step foot into generic Midtown delis, but how could I resist with a sign like the one above? They have different kinds depending on the day, but today it is just chicken. $2.25 each.

4. Margon (46th btw. 6+7th) – This Cuban lunch counter is actually run by Dominicans, so they have their version of “tamales” (seen on the left of the photo above). Called pasteles the “dough” is made with plantains instead of corn, and their version is stuffed with shredded chicken.

5. (Out of Bounds) Leon Bakery (9th Ave. btw. 47+48th) – I had to include this out of bounds bakery which serves $1.25 cheese, chicken, and spicy chicken tamales. Head all the way to the back where they are kept in front of the register in a giant metal steamer. Once again, you can’t really go wrong for $1.25, plus you’re steps away from a whole fridge full of amazing desserts (i’d go for one of the bread puddings for $1.75).

6. (R.I.P.) Le Croissant Cafe – This French “bakery” that also served Mexican food would have been the perfect Cinco de Mayo recommendation (a truce of sorts between the two countries that fought on May 5th), but they shuttered last week. A moment of silence please…

There are some pretty big holes in my tamales map. Got a recommendation that I missed? Feel free to post it in the comments (and I’ll add it)…

View Larger Map

Related: Best Tacos in Midtown (5/4/07)


  • Chicken pasteles??? Weird…. The only pasteles I know are the Puerto Rican ones which are filled with wonderful pork goodness. Chicken just sounds wrong, although I am curious to try. Anyone know a good place in Midtown for the Puerto Rican variety?

  • Las Poblanitas on 38th btw 8+9th also has tamales for $2

  • for any sunnyside readers, there’s a tamale lady on 46th st b/w queens blvd and greenpoint, directly between where the taco truck and the churro lady usually set up shop.

    never heard of the margon pasteles before.. i’m gonna head over there today. i’d also be interested to see how/if the jamaican dutchy cart plans a cinco de mayo special.. curry goat tacos, anyone?

  • Is there an actual chance of getting a cheese tamale from the tamale lady or beef, chicken, cheese its a crap shoot ?

  • Ben- funny that you should ask about cheese tamales. She always has cheese tamales left when I go. The pork ones run out like hot cakes.

  • Thanks for this post! I’d forgotten that it’s cinco de mayo but had a tamale craving. So i’ll be looking for the Mexican lady!

    By the way, the pasteles at Margon is yummy although at approx $4, it’s pricier than the tamales. Having one leaves me a little hungry. Having it with the rice, beans and plantains comes out to about $7-$8.

  • My wife (much younger than me, should that excite you) do not eat “Mexican” food for obvious health and sanitary reasons.

  • I know for a fact your wife does do mexican.
    Juan, the handyman, if that excites you.

  • Ben – I’m a vegetarian and I’ve been to the Tamale Lady, and she has never given me anything but cheese. The texture of the cheese is like a very stringy mozzarella, so you might think it’s chicken, but upon close investigation it’s cheese. I also went with a Spanish-speaking friend who confirmed the non-meatiness of it for me. Just ask for queso.

  • How about taking a hike on outta here with your unfunny racist comments?

  • i tried the caribbean cart on 46th and 6th today, the chicken was moist and tasty, the rice+beans a little dry, the vegetables a nice mix up from the standard crap salad that street meat vendors throw your way. my only real gripe is that they dont give you a plastic knife, a bit annoying to eat chicken on the bone with just a fork. $7 portion was satisfying, though i could’ve used 1 more piece of chicken in there.

  • You’d think I would use Cinco de Mayo as an excuse to go around the corner and FINALLY try the Tamale Lady, but I still haven’t worked up the nerve. I am a Midtown Lunch failure.

  • I finally did use this as an excuse to try the Tamale Lady, and she wasn’t there!! At least the only person there who looked like she could be the Tamale Lady said “No, not today” whenst I inquired about tamales.

  • I stopped by the Tamale Lady’s folding table setup at about 2:30pm and she was still there but she was out of tamales.

    I hiked up to the Carribean Spice cart on 46th and 6th. Thanks for mentioning the rice + beans were dry. I got the curry goat with extra sauce and it soften up the rice nicely. The small was plenty of food. It wasn’t spicy despite the name but the guys were nice so i’ll go back and try out another dish.

  • Chucky chucky chucky…….you’ve excelled yourself.

    You are a wanker, a gobshyte,a twat, a nob cheese.

    Also on topic.If we in the UK celebrated every time we beat the french we’d have 107 public holidays a year.

  • My husband has been very concerned about the safety of America’s food supply. He believes it to be vulnerable to terrorists. And I agree, by the way.

    Thus, we have a fully stocked pantry full of canned goods (crab, sausages, chicken, potato salad, etc) as well as an ample air raid shelter in the basement.

    My husband (a retired “educator”) subsists on a diet rich in Vienna Sausages! He loves the texture of the soft, silky “Mechanically Separated Chicken.”

    I have run into a problem, though, as my husband goes through the Vienna Sausages from the pantry like they were peanuts. I used to make them in the crockpot with grape jelly but now he just spears them straight from the can while he’s surfing the internet. And he has snuck dozens of cans out from the air raid shelter.

    Vienna Sausages aren’t very healthy and my husband is older and rather lethargic so I worry about him eating so much fatty food, but canned Vienna Sausages, procvessed hygenically and hermetically sealed are much safer and healthful than “tamales” or the other “foods” sold from filthy carts New Yorkers inexplicably frequent.

  • Ha! 10 pts to whoever wrote this. I think I know who done did, too. Also a gold star to mamacita for her comeback. I’m saving my appetite for tamales for Chavellas in Brooklyn: Delish beyond belief, def out of midtown bounds, but half a block from my couch!

  • Sarah, The Chavella’s brunch of eggs, chilaquilles, beans,tortillas and carne asada is pretty damn good. Oh the the sweet bread… yum.

    I second going to Las Poblanitas, but not for the tamale, too dry, but for their daily specials on the buffet table.

  • Damn, sorry that was me above, I forgot to insert my name and ended up with Sarah’s name still up there.

  • I *still* haven’t had their brunch, but that place makes my world go ’round! Despite it not being BYOB anymore!

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