Clay Williams/Eater NY
Here in New York, tamales have never been as popular as their flattened, masa-made cousin the tortilla, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t standout versions of the dish to be found. A growing number of chefs are now making Mexican tamales by importing heirloom corn from Mexico or engaging in the painstaking process of nixtamalization. The tamales those efforts produce come steamed in corn husks, wrapped in banana leaves, stuffed between slices of bread, and filled with a dizzying array of meats, cheeses, fruits, and moles. Plus, they keep in the freezer for months. It’s your move, tortilla.
It’s well understood that the best tamales come from the steaming stainless steel pots of food vendors across the city, sometimes as early as 6 a.m., often only on weekends. Their hours, locations, and availability can be difficult to pin down, which is part of why this guide also includes a handful of Eater’s favorite brick-and-mortar restaurants. Some of the businesses listed here only serve tamales as weekend specials, while others sell out early, so set an alarm or call ahead before making the trek.
Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.