In households everywhere, the holiday season means tamales season.
You know, tamales! The holiday must-have feast where corn husks are coated with masa dough, stuffed with your favorite meats and cheeses, then steamed in a big pot (olla) and served nice and hot for all of us to enjoy as we jingle around the Christmas tree.
The annual tradition among Hispanics looks a little different this year as Covid-19 has altered the yearly trip to abuelita’s house to gather and assemble the tamales. The work is labor intensive. But it’s a big part of the holiday.
RELATED: How to make tamales with Tamales Mary (video)
Don’t have time to make tamales this year? No problema.
Below is our list of restaurants making great tamales!
If we missed your favorite place, please email us asap:
Of course, you can always find great tamales at one of our Michigan’s Best restaurant picks.
RELATED: 44 Must-Visit Mexican Restaurants in Michigan
RELATED: The 10 best Mexican Restaurants in Michigan
Before we get to the list:
We invited Raul Alvarez, who presents Tamales Mary in Wyoming, and Julie Zavala Stevens of Detroit Loves Tacos food truck in Southwest Detroit, to join us for a Talkin’ Tamales Podcast. We discuss traditions, how to properly eat tamales (or NOT), and share a little personal history as it relates to tamales. Julie also talks about her top picks in Southwest Detroit. LISTEN BELOW.
Now, let’s get to our tamales list.
The Tamales Trail
Tamales Mary, Wyoming
As Raul says in the Podcast, the popularity for Tamales Mary has grown exponentially in just the few short years since Mary and Humberto Alavrez opened Tamales Mary, 1253 Burton St. SW, in 2016. They have plans to open a second location in East Grand Rapids in 2021, and a Food Truck has enabled them to main business even during the Covid-19 pandemic. They offer about 20 different tamales, including traditional ones of pork, beef and chicken, but they also have vegan, vegetarian and fruit-flavored. More info on the Tamales Mary Facebook page. Also available: Tacos, burritos, platillos and other specialties. SALE: From 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 23 they will offer a special of 12 tamales for $18. More info on the Facebook event page. They sold 5,000 tamales for a similar sale prior to Thanksgiving.
Southwest Detroit Picks
In our Podcast, Julie Zavala Stevens said “Southwest Detroit, AKA Mexicantown, has hands down the best Tamales spots!” Her Top 5 picks.
1. Tamaleria Nuevo León, 2669 Vernor Hwy, Detroit, MI 48216. Facebook
2. La Jaliciense Super Mercado, 3923 Vernor Hwy, Detroit, MI 48216. Facebook
3. Pupusería y Restaurante Salvadoreño, 3149 Livernois, Detroit, MI 48210. GrubHub
4. Evie’s Tamales, 3454 Bagley St, Detroit, MI 48216. Facebook
5. Inside Prince Valley Market, 5931 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48210. princevalleymarket.com
Trini’s Mexican Carry Out, New Baltimore
Part of our search for Michigan’s Best Mexican Restaurant in 2018, this loveable carry out is ready for your tamales needs. They are offering a tamales special now until Christmas, selling one dozen frozen tamales for $15. Winter hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, and noon-7 p.m. Sunday. Located at 35710 Green St., New Baltimore, MI 48047. 586-273-7109. Facebook.
Jalisco Deli, Imlay City
A little gem in the heart of downtown Imlay City, the cafe is owned by Samuel Galenana. His mom, Maria, is the mastermind behind the food here. “Everything that gets sent out is approved by my mom,” Galenana he told us on Michigan’s Best Mexican Restaurant search. Make sure to get their salsas, too! Located at 134 E 3rd St., Imlay City, MI 48444. 810-724-4345. Facebook. PHOTOS: See all the pictures from our trip to Jalisco.
Two Hot Tamales, Grant
Located in Grant, about 40 minutes north of Grand Rapids, Rita and Ruben Rodriquez operate Two Hot Tamales. They have been in business for more than 15 years, operating as a food trailer and selling their brand of tamales at festivals, community gatherings and private events. They also do fundraisers. The retired couple hope to pass this Hispanic tradition down to their children and grandkids. They just made beef, pork and chicken. Call them at 231-834-5456. Learn more about Two Hot Tamales on their Facebook page.
Cruz Kitchen, Saginaw
This small deli in Saginaw makes fresh tamales almost everyday; chicken, pork and turkey. They also make wet tamales. Cruz Kitchen is located at 1200 Martha St., and it is one of the oldest grocery stores in Saginaw. Hours are 12 noon-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday; limited hours on Sunday. Call 989-752-8039
El Acapulco Tamales, Burt
We had a reader tell us a few years ago that she loves El Acapulco Tamales, which she said where a “wholesome, authentic, satisfying food as a snack or a meal.” She found them at the Family Fare Supermarket in Vicksburg. You can find them in other grocery stores throughout Michigan. More info at 989-770-4309.
Lindo Mexico Restaurante, Wyoming
Maybe best known for their array of flavorful margaritas, they also have some pretty tasty tamales. Everything here is homemade and follows owner Gricelda Mata’s family’s recipes. Tamales are on sale for $12-half dozen and $20-dozen, through December. You can get rajas con queso (roasted poblano peppers with cheese), pollo en salsa verde (chicken in green sauce) and puerco en salsa roja (pork in red sauce). YUM! Located at 1742 28th St. SW, Wyoming, MI 49509. 616-261-2280. Facebook. PHOTOS: Check out all of the pictures from our MI Best visit to Lindo Mexico.
Rico’s Tamales, Rothbury
Known for their tamales, they make chicken, beef, steak and cheese, chicken and cheese, and their famous Popper Tamale (cream cheese & jalapeno). Yes, we need one! They also have traditional Mexican tacos of carne asada and barbacoa. They are taking Christmas orders through Dec. 22. Located at 7807 S. Michigan Ave., Rothbury, Michigan. 231-343-6596. Facebook.
Rico’s Authentic Mexican Take Out, Saginaw
We got a message from reader/Tamale Lover Darrell Desgranges, who said Rico’s in Saginaw “never disappoints.” That’s so true. We loved EVERYTHING when we visited on our search for Michigan’s Best Taco in 2014. The tamales are made with extra love. Hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Located at 2720 Bay Rd., Saginaw. 989-249-9988. More info on Rico’s Facebook page.
Taco ‘Bout It Mexican Fusion, Manistee
A former food truck, owner Tavo Hernandez opened his fusion Mexican restaurant in 2019, and he hasn’t slowed down. “I still have the food truck, but I haven’t time to open it back up. This has really taken off,” he said. Although he is a “fusion” restaurant, one thing he won’t change are his traditional tamales from a family recipe. He often does pork, chicken and some vegetarian options. This weekend he is featuring pork. Look for specials on their Facebook page. Located at 344 River St, Manistee, MI 49660. Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 231-887-4441. Facebook or tacoboutitmanistee.com.
Spanglish, Traverse City
Located in Grand Traverse Commons, Spanglish is not your average Mexican restaurant. Some might say it’s above average. Their menu reflects their creativity and determination to think outside the Americanized perception of Mexican cuisine. Their tamales contain no hydrogenated lard, shortenings or trans fats. “Traditional Mexican Food is our starting point, but we will bend the rules to make a recipe better,” they say. The New World Tamales features zucchini, roasted tomatoes, potatoes, onions and pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds). Also available: pork and tomatillo, chicken guajillo, and Three Sisters (vegetarian). Located at 1333 Yellow Dr., Traverse City. 231-943-1453. More info on the Spanglish Facebook page. or at spanglishtc.com.
El Cardenal, Hart
A wholesale provider of tamales and other products, available in specialty markets throughout West Michigan. They even make asparagus tamales. A new jack fruit tamal is planning to be introduced soon. Plans of opening a restaurant this year were put on hold because of Covid-19. Owner Altagracia Contreras still hopes to open on March 1 in Hart. You can find their tamales Kingma’s Market in Grand Rapids, the Muskegon Farmer’s Market, Hansen Foods in Hart and other locations. More info on Facebook.
Maria’s Restaurant, Sturgis
A reader said chicken tamales are a must at Maria’s, which is offering takeout! It is located at 26623 US Highway 12, Sturgis. 269-659-8930. More info on Maria’s Facebook page.
La Fiesta, Hart
They have been making tamales for more than 30 years with a recipe handed down for generations. Earlier this month, owners Fabian and Maria Vasquez celebrated their 60th anniversary. Wow. That’s awesome. Located at 12 S State St, Hart, MI 49420. 231-873-4345. More info on the La Fiesta Facebook page.
Tacos El Caporal, Wyoming
Some consider this one of the best Mexican restaurants in West Michigan. It’s always a great stop. Tamales sell for about $16 a dozen. El Caporal has two locations: 1260 Burton St SW, Wyoming, and at 1717 28th St SW, Wyoming. 616-261-2711. More info on Facebook. Menu here.
Mexicali Allie’s, Howell
Reader Jo says that Mexicali Allie’s has a “low-rent ambiance, but food is really good. Tamales are excellent.” Jo also loves The Grasshopper in Adrian.
Located at 117 N. Michigan Ave, Howell
More info on the Allie’s Facebook page.
Pilar’s Tamales, Ann Arbor
This family-owned Salvadoran restaurant with organic and local fare, including the tamales, which are a must. The tamales are made fresh with 100% stone‐ground corn masa. They feature about 11 different tamales with vegan options. There is even a Michigan black and cheese tamal. Located at W. Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48103. Hours are noon-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and noon-5 p.m. Saturdays. 734-929-4161 or 734-585-5630. More info on Facebook. See the menu here.
Honey Bee Market, Detroit
La Colmena is one of our favorite Mexican specialty stores in Michigan. Love the chips, salsa and guacamole when you walk in the door. They make chicken and pork tamales. Jalapeno-cheese tamales are available on weekends only. Cost is $10.99 a dozen. Located at 2443 Bagley St., Detroit. 313-237-0295. Open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays. More info on the Honey Bee Facebook page.
Supermercado Santa Fe, Holland
A reader recommended the pork and chicken tamales at this Supermercado. They sell for $14 a dozen. It is located at 981 Butternut Dr, Holland. Hours are 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, and 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 616-738-0920. More information on Facebook.
El Tapatio, Muskegon
El Tapatio was our pick for Michigan’s Best Mexica Restaurant, as well as one of our picks for Michigan’s Best Taco. So, you know their tamales are going to be fantastic! Located at 677 W Laketon Ave., Muskegon. 231-759-7408. More info on Facebook.
La Probadita, Hart
If we didn’t include La Prob on this list, my Michigan’s Best partner Amy Sherman would not be happy! It’s her favorite spot when she’s anywhere near Hart. You’ll find mostly pork and chicken on most days. They sell for $12.99 a dozen. Since it’s mainly a grocery store, you could also buy the supplies to make your own tamales at home. La Probadita is located at 19 S. State St., Hart. 231-873-4069. More info on Facebook.
Dos Hermanos Supermercado, Westland
It’s been on a lot of favorite list from friends. We’ll have to check it out. Right now they have pork and chicken and sell for $18 a dozen. Located at 34707 Ford Rd, Westland, MI 48185. 734-419-7145.
El Zapopan Market & Restaurant, Kent City
They made about 12 dozen tamales for Saturday, so get them while they’re hot or you can preorder now for next week. They make red (pork) and green (chicken). They sell for $12 a dozen. Located at 73 S Main St. Kent City. 616-952-0123.
Tamale Factory, Adrian
They haven’t posted much on Facebook, but we checked today, and they’re making chicken and pork ($9 a dozen) and beef ($10 a dozen) tamales every day. They can also do veggie, Rajas con queso (poblano peppers with cheese) and jalapeno with cheese, but those need to be ordered in advance. Known as the Best in Lenawee County! Located at 944 E Beecher St, Adrian, MI 49221. Hours are 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. 517-215-2510. More info on Facebook.
Pablo’s Old Town
If owner Pablo Maldonado is making it, we’re buying it! One of our favorite Mexican restaurants in Michigan. They have fresh pork tamales right now. $1.75 each. Located at 311 E Grand River Ave., Lansing, MI 48906. Open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays. 517-372-0887. Facebook.
La Laguna Mexican Restaurant, Grand Rapids
A good friend recommended this place. They have beef and pork tamales to go for $18 a dozen. Located at 6250 28th St SE Grand Rapids, MI 49546. Open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 616-805-8821. Facebook or lalagunamexicanrestaurant.com