April 25, 2024

Everybody wants tamales for the holidays, and now they’re easier to find.

The expansion of H-E-B Grocery brings about 10 varieties of hand-wrapped deli tamales, sold in-store or with curbside pickup, plus a ready-to-eat dinner of pork tamales in queso blanco.

Kroger stores just premiered a Kroger Mercado house brand, including tamales and a kit to make Christmas tamarind punch.

Tom Thumb and Albertsons stores sell tamales and heat-and-eat dinners. Tom Thumb even sells and delivers single tamales for $1.

From Central Market, order traditional flavors or specialties such as kale tamales with fire-roasted tomatoes, or bison tamales.

Supermercado El Rancho sells tamales in several flavors. Fiesta Mart delivers them though Instacart.

It is nearly impossible to find any grocery, carniceria or panaderia that is not selling tamales.

And it doesn’t worry Gloria Cardona of Cardona Foods Cafe one bit.

“We’re all so busy — there’s room for supermarkets,” Cardona, executive of an 87-year local Mexican food factory and cafe, said on a recent Star-Telegram Eats Beat Live streaming show at facebook.com/startelegram.

Tamales are so irresistible that nearly everybody sells out.

Cardona was in a new Kroger the other day sampling her namesake Gloria’s tortilla chips, now sold across the Southwest.

“Even Kroger had tamales, ready to go,” she said. “If you’re in a supermarket, and you see tamales, you say, ‘Oh, look! I’m going to grab a dozen.’ ”

A combination plate with a tamal, a green chicken enchilada and a taco at Cardona Foods Cafe.
A combination plate with a tamal, a green chicken enchilada and a taco at Cardona Foods Cafe. Bud Kennedy bud@star-telegram.com

The old standbys

Cardona Foods Cafe and Esperanza’s Restaurant & Bakery are the two legacy restaurants selling tamales in Fort Worth. Both are still owned by families that went into business in 1935.

Cardona Foods will sell 3,000 dozen tamales this month, Gloria Cardona said.

Cardona, 850 Meacham Blvd., is 1½ miles west of Interstate 35W, or south of Loop 820 via Blue Mound Road.

The cafe is open weekdays for lunch.

But the factory sells tamales, enchiladas, chips, hot sauce, queso, chili con carne and all kinds of Tex-Mex food to go weekdays until 5 p.m. It will stay open later for pickups with a call to 817-625-6477.

On Dec. 23, the last business day before Christmas, the factory will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The pork tamale plate at Esperanza’s Restaurant & Bakery with chili sauce.
The pork tamale plate at Esperanza’s Restaurant & Bakery with chili sauce. DFW.com

Esperanza’s Restaurant & Bakery, 2122 N. Main St. or 1601 Park Place Ave., is a daily breakfast and lunch restaurant from the family that also founded and owns Joe T. García’s.

The Park Place Avenue restaurant is also open for dinner Wednesdays through Fridays. The wide-ranging menu features breakfasts, combination plates, soups, stews and seafood, along with cakes, cookies and pan dulce.

The tamales are larger that most. They’re sold by walk-in at the north side location but usually require an advance order at the south side location.

Yes, you can get chili con carne on a tamale plate, on enchiladas, or in a bowl to go.

Both Esperanza’s are also a good place to buy enchiladas by the pan for dinners, along with party platters of tamales, mini-chimichangas, quesadillas and and flautas.

Unlike parent Joe T.’s, Esperanza’s takes credit cards; 817-626-5770 or 817-923-1992, esperanzasfw.com.

Pan dulce, migas and pork tamales at Marquez Bakery in Arlington.
Pan dulce, migas and pork tamales at Marquez Bakery in Arlington. R. Jeena Jacob Star-Telegram archives

Marquez: a legend in Arlington

But nobody compares to the prolific Marquez Bakery & Cafe, 1730 E. Division St., Arlington, on the outskirts of Globe Life Field.

Marquez, a 55-year West Texas legacy, sells about 14,000 dozen tamales.

That’s 500 dozen every day.

Marquez is open for breakfast and lunch daily except Christmas Day; 817-265-8858, marquezbakery.com.

An Ibarra’s lunch of chicken poblano tamales.
An Ibarra’s lunch of chicken poblano tamales. Bud Kennedy bud@star-telegram.com

More favorites for tamales

Another long-standing small, local bakery selling tamales is Ibarra’s Tortilleria, 1109 N.W. 25th St.

Ibarra’s “Tamales Command Center” sells popular brisket tamales along with pork and chicken. Ibarra’s tamales and tortillas are made from nixtamalized masa and corn.

It’s open mornings through lunch Wednesdays through Sundays; 817-625-6391, ibarrastortilleria.com.

Tamale nachos, top, and a tamale bowl at Tommy Tamale.
Tamale nachos, top, and a tamale bowl at Tommy Tamale. Bud Kennedy bud@star-telegram.com

Tommy Tamale Market and Cafe, a restaurant and take-out shop ranked among the state’s favorite restaurants by users of Yelp.com, is open from 10 a.m. through early dinner hours six days a week at three Tarrant County locations.

Tommy Tamale is very busy around the holidays and can’t always take calls or promise all eight flavors will be in stock.

Look for it at 750 W. Bonds Ranch Road in rural north Tarrant County, 817-318-7040, or at 208 N. Main St., Keller, 817-398-3500, or 1689 W. Northwest Highway, Grapevine, 817-360-6385; ftworth.tommytamale.com.

Tamales from Hot Damn, Tamales!
Tamales from Hot Damn, Tamales! Willis Knight Special to the Star-Telegram

Hot Damn, Tamales!, a mail-order gourmet tamale company, is selling pork, beef, chicken-Hatch chile and queso blanco-jalapeno tamales.

Hot Damn, Tamales! may also open its shop sometimes the next few weeks.

Watch for it inside the Pantry on Magnolia, 713 W. Magnolia Ave., or call 817-523-1836; hotdamntamales.com.

This story was originally published December 11, 2023, 5:30 AM.

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Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth Star-Telegram “Eats Beat” dining columnist and restaurant podcast co-host. In print since 1985 and online since 1992, he has written more than 3,000 columns about Texas cafes, barbecue, burgers and where to eat.
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