By Charlotte Aguilar
Even before the last morsel of Thanksgiving leftovers is consumed, planning begins for the next round of holiday entertaining. And increasingly, tamales are a part of the celebrations.
That’s understandable. They’re a blast to make as a group activity, and if you don’t want want to dig your hands into the masa and master the rolling technique, they’re easily accessible, available in mass quantities, reasonably priced, and run the gamut of basic homestyle to gourmet, from savory to sweet.
They can be finger food, eaten straight out of the wrapper, or dressed up with queso,
chili, mole and salsas. And they make great gifts for colleagues, co-workers or homesick expats from Texas with careful packing and reliably swift shipping offered by at least two businesses.
Here’s your Essentials guide to some of our favorite go-to tamale purveyors in the area. Because they’re labor intensive and in such demand this time of year, pre-ordering is a must.
Momma’s Tamales, 5214 Cedar St., Bellaire, 832-752-8146, eat tamales.com
After success making the rounds at farmer’s markets in the area, Ana Soria opened her brick-and-mortar tamale stand and kitchen-factory in a Bellaire strip center, honoring the dream of her mother to share their treasured family recipes in a business. The meal-size tamales are healthier than many, made with canola oil instead of lard, and generously filled with lean proteins (brisket from Bellaire’s Hickory Pit barbecue, chicken, pork) or veggies and beans, including black beans, jalapeños and spinach.) Soria’s deceptively creamy green sauce is eye-wateringly hot but addictive. Not only is the storefront a success, but Soria and her family still make the rounds at 10 Houston-area farmer’s markets, and you can arrange online for pickup from any location.
Casa Dominguez, 5213 Cedar St., Bellaire, 713-660-7647
Right across the street from Momma’s is this Bellaire institution, which serves up Tex-Mex staples, including handmade beef tamales. These are small and drenched in the kitchen’s well seasoned chili gravy, served five to an order as a plate, or available by the dozen, by request. A complimentary bag of corn chips and a half-pint of the house red salsa fresca are thrown in.
Tamales don Pepe, 3816 Link Valley Dr., 281-846-6195, tamalesdonpepe.com
When the owners were regrouping after having to close their
fine-dining Maria Selma restaurant on Richmond a few years back, they went in a different direction — both literally and figuratively. They set up Tamales don Pepe in a battered strip center in the neighborhood not far from the South Campus Fields off Stella Link south of the 610 South and began serving homestyle breakfasts and lunches with tamales as the centerpiece. These are the big ones — 6 ounces each, a veritable meal for $2.50 — stuffed with pork or chicken with green chili, jalapeños, black beans or mushrooms. They also feature the Oaxacan style, filled with chicken in mole and folded into banana leaves before steaming.
Molina’s, 3801 Bellaire Blvd., 713-432-1626, molinascantina.com
The local outpost of this Houston-area institution does a lively business in bulk tamales in December through its catering department. Pork tamales cost $12.95 a dozen and come with a variety of options to dress them up, including the restaurant’s popular Jose’s queso, and chipotle and poblano salsas, as well as an array of sides.
Pico’s, 3601 Kirby Dr., 832-831-9940, picos.net
When Arnaldo Richards relocated his “Mex-Mex” eatery from just outside Bellaire to fancier digs in Upper Kirby, an expansive parking lot allowed him to open a seasonal tamale cart and operate a full-blown tamale business on the side. There are Tamale Grams for gift-giving, In Queso Emergency kits, and the restaurant even ships through the Goldbelly national food delivery service. Offerings include the Norteño style tamales with pork, beef and chicken filllings in the corn husk that most are familiar with. The banana-wrapped Oaxacan style offer chicken but more exotic fillings, such as chicken in black mole and huitlacoche and mushrooms, plus sweet varieties with a choice of raisins, pineapple and coconut.
Texas Tamale Company, 3340 Fountain View, 713-953-1181, texastamale.com
Providing several varieties of tamales and fixings to groceries and shipping them nationwide, this small Fountain View storefront is the company’s best-kept secret: Site of the kitchen where you can pick up the freshly made tamales, chili, queso and salsas (in addition to breakfast and lunch tacos, and plates of fajitas, flautas, tortas and more) at bargain prices. Not only can you feed dozens at home or office gatherings, but you can custom-design gift packages of tamales, salsas, sausage, chili and queso — such as the Texas Sampler — and order through their website to satisfy the cravings of those who can’t make it to West U or Bellaire for the holidays but who want a taste of home.
First appeared as November 2021 cover story in Bellaire-West University Essentials Magazine