Sophie’s Serves Up Delicious Cuban Style Tamales

I started loving tamales when I worked in Corona, Queens, near Tortilleria Nixtamal. The folks there use the traditional nixtamalization process on their corn and make their own masa dough (the dough used to make tamales, tortillas, and other fun stuff) right in front of you! By the way, they now have a smaller downtown location, Nixtamalito, and they also provide ingredients to the food trucks Mexico Blvd and Kimchi Taco, according to their website. I used to have lunch there 2-3 times a week sometimes, and I really missed my tamales!

So I’ve been jonesin’ for some tamales, no lie. They’re cheap, tasty, and very filling–think 6 bucks to feel like you have big ol’ corn brick in your belly. But I hadn’t seen many places around midtown. But one day I looked through the window of Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine (the one between 45th St btw 5th + 6th) and I noticed they had some corn husk wrapped tamales for sale! So I grabbed a few of what I now know is a Cuban-style tamale.

Sophie’s tamales are not listed as such on the menu, but rather as “Corn meal stuffed with ground pork”. Alrighty. You can find them in the clear box full of carby goodies near the cash registers. Cuban tamales aren’t your run-of-the-mill tamale; they’re made with a very a different recipe than I’m used to. Mexican tamales are “filled” with ingredients while Cuban tamales use the “plum pudding” approach. Small bits of pork and two colors of pepper were mixed in uniformly with the cornmeal/masa. The cornmeal is yellow, and it’s quite sweet with bits of sweet corn mixed in.

The best thing about Sophie’s tamales is the flavor. But don’t forget to ask for hot sauce… the wonderful heat of Sophie’s “Peruvian aji-like” green sauce — which was extensively covered by Midtown Lunch back in 2009, balances the sweetness of the corn perfectly. I asked the lady checking me out what the ingredients are, and she said, “jalapeno, olive oil, and garlic”.

I thought the tamales had a slight lack of meat compared to the price at $2.99 per tamale with a few flecks of pork here and there. They were also a tad smaller than what I’m used to, but they still filled me up. I should warn you though, eating these puppies was a very sloppy affair! The tamales were very watery; liquid spills out everywhere when you open the corn husk. They were nice and hot and tasted amazing, but I would say that because it was a bit pasty near the husk, the consistency could have been better. That said, I’d rather have a tamale that’s too moist than one that’s too dry.

Overall, I thought Sophie’s tamales were excellent, and a nice adventure away from what I’m used to with Mexican style tamales. I’ll definitely go back for more. Have you tasted any good tamales in midtown? I’ll try any of ‘em! I’m searching for the most delicious tamales in midtown, no matter who serves them up. Random carts, delis, fake Mexican, whatever. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine

  • 21 W. 45th Street
  • 805 Third Avenue
  • 369 Lexington Avenue


  • I love all things tamales, pasteles, pastelillos..and make some wonderful Dominican ones myself! On 49th, down the block from S&W there is a Peruvian(?) woman who sells treats from her “shopping cart”, among other treats she has great masa tamales that are just spicy enough and wrapped in banana leaves, which is what I’m accustomed to. $2 a pop one can have plenty and be filled to content! good luck on your search

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    Is the tamale lady still outside the Mexican embassy?

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    She was there about a week ago in the morning (~9am), not sure about lunch.

  • Do you know the cross streets of the tamale cart, eboogie1? I’d like to try it. I’ll look for the tamale lady outside the Mexican embassy, too. Thanks for these suggestions!

  • Sophies is so good in general. They still have the stepped up sandwiches with plantains from a few years ago.

    I got one of the tamales on a plate with onions. It had great texture, flavor, and meat quantity. Worth trying.

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