Curra’s giant tamales are two or three times the normal size, with great, fluffy masa and ample filling. The savory pork is best, followed closely by the vegetarian (zucchini, yellow squash, and onion), refried-bean, and raisin-and-pineapple. Order well in advance from this popular casual cafe; $9.95—$10.95 a dozen. No surprises at La Reyna ’s agreeably old-fashioned Mexican cafe, just traditional, meaty beef- or pork-filled tamales, flavorful and not greasy; the accompanying tomato-jalapeño-cilantro salsa delivers a nice little kick; $6 a dozen.
The earthiest tamales in El Paso—cheese with green chile, pork with red chile, and best of all, chicken with green chile—are found at Gussie’s Tamales & Bakery, a tidy shop with wall-to-wall display cases; $9.98 a dozen. (Gussie’s pastries aren’t bad either.)
Strictly lard-free is the rule at funky little Hot Damn, Tamales!, a cafe and store selling gourmet tamales in the city’s medical district. Choose from black-bean-and-Oaxaca-cheese, spring-vegetable, poblano-corn, wild-mushroom-and-goat-cheese, poblano-chicken, and beef-tenderloin; $8—$17 a dozen.
It is worth the drive to tiny Doña Tere Tamales, on the outskirts of town, for the giant Mexico City-style tamales, about three times as large as standard ones. Pork with piquant green chile sauce and chicken with chocolaty mole are top picks. The most creative is strawberry-raisin, and jalapeño-cheese rounds out the bill of fare; $1 each.
For monster tamales, go to Tellez, where a large white room with a short cafeteria line (serving quick lunches) fronts a modern kitchen that turns out a variety of well-stuffed tamales, the city’s best (pork is the yummiest—and pay the extra tariff for handmade); $4.50—$5.50 a dozen. “Don’t wait in line, place your order by phone” reads the sign in Del Rio ’s small, baby-blue cinder-block room, summing up the popularity of the place. The classic pork tamales, made with masa that’s a bit coarser than some, are excellent; $4.50 a dozen.
See the Directorio for directions to any of these restaurants.