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Dec 9, 2008 06:25 PM

Tamales in Fresno

Has anyone had tamales in a restaurant to eat in or to go that were really good? I have made them in the past and will never do it again...too much work! I'm looking for minimal masa and more filling with good flavor. My experience has been too much cornmeal and little beef or chicken and flavor. Thanks for any suggestions.

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  1. Sadly, I cannot recommend a restaurant that has amazing tamales. I, like you, wish for a plentiful amount of filling as opposed to an overload of masa. But I hope that other Fresno 'hounds can come to your rescue (and I will be following their advice as well!!). Typically, I buy my tamales from the chef's and kitchen help at the restaurants I work at. Their families always have an abundance, and sell them during this time of year - I have had some great and not-so-great experiences from that. Usually the outstanding tamales, when I inquire for more, are loooong gone...oh well...

    1. I'm afraid cq is right, the best come from families of co-workers and as soon as word gets around the best of those are long gone early.

      Does anyone know what happened to Chef Paul of the former Tamale Shop in Picadilly? Before he closed I know he was selling them around town out of the trunk of his car.

      5 Replies
      1. re: PolarBear

        does anyone know where Chef Paul is today ? nobody makes molie like Paul and tamales to die any cost. if you might know where he is let me know I need my tamale fix....Thanks

        1. re: bdavis1742

          Been having to make do with ones from the Casa de Tamales (SE Shaw & Brawley). Might check the newly reopened El Toro Cafe (NE Cedar & Shileds @ Fountain Way)

          1. re: PolarBear

            thanks do you remember his last name? since we all just called him chef paul

            1. re: bdavis1742

              Trying to recall, found a link to an old Bee article but it didn't work. Also edited the above to correct the name and autolink, which also failed, so tring again.

              Casa de Tamales

              Just found it, Paul Urias

              Casa De Tamales
              3747 W Shaw Ave, Fresno, CA 93722

              1. re: bdavis1742

                Top Drive Cafe in Ray, North Dakota

                Casa De Tamales
                3747 W Shaw Ave, Fresno, CA 93722

        2. I know a lot of years ago there was Estrada's Spanish Kitchen which was South of Belmont on Blackstone. They used to make huge tamales and were the talk of the town then. Don't know if they are still open or not haven't been in that area for awhile.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Bakersfield Hound

            Estrada's was *wonderful*. I think it has been gone for years, sadly.

            1. re: Gail

              There's still an Estrada's Spanish Kitchen in Daly City, should you feel the urge.

            2. re: Bakersfield Hound

              Estrada's closed their downtown shop 15 years ago. They then only had the north Fresno restaurant at Blackstone (around Sierra) on the west side of the street. I have never been able to find those large tamales anywhere else. The tamales were so unique that I have to believe they were not Mexican, but probably Spanish, or South American.

              I live in Clovis, but work in the bay area and I used to stop and buy several on my way back in town. They were $6.50 10 years ago, so they would be $12 each now.

              I was first introduced to large round tamales by my grandmother at a restaurant in Stockton, CA called the Pioneer Café (now out of business). They were the same large round multi-layered tamales that Estrada's made, with tremendous sauce, then meat, then maze, then meat & sauce – all wrapped in corn husks. They were absolutely the best tamales in the world and we always bought them frozen. My dad use to cook them in a pressure cooker and they came out perfect every time - well, almost every time.

              He came home late one night from hitting the bars on old business 99 and decided to pressure-cook a tamale. Unfortunately, he fell asleep - only to wake up to tamales all over the kitchen ceiling. I don't think we ever cleaned it up completely - just painted over it.

              Those were some great tamales. I have been searching for years, but have never been able to find anything even close. If I ever find them, I will let you know.

              1. re: big lou

                Chowhound never ceases to amaze me. When I first saw this post two things stuck out, first it was on my birthday, and secondly, after reading I recall thinking what a coincidence, I have an old dear friend that unfortunately do not see enough, that also lives in Clovis but spends the work week up in the City.

                The past Saturday night we attended a sort of reunion party for all the folks we knew and hung out with back in the mid 60s to 70s. I run into my old pal who almost immediately asks if I saw his tamales post on CH. As he described the situation of his dad driving down old Hwy 99 it came back to me. Unfortunately, we were poor college students back in the day and had never heard of these great creations, much less being able to afford them had we known. But now I'm really curious if these might still exist somewhere?

                I know we need to keep this food focussed to avoid banishment to cyber purgatory by the moderators, so I could tell you stories about the "best horse I ever had", however wishing to dodge the wrath of the equine lovers, I'll just add (what I thought I'd already done here) what I told my old pal.

                Great tamales at El Toro Cafe, now located on the east side of Cedar, one block north of Shields in the red brick former digs of DiCicco's Pizza, a little pricey by today's standards (3.50) but well worth it, two will make a decent meal, even better I think than the Tamale Shop that used to be at Shaw and Van Ness. Also, pick up a side of their great chili with beans.

                Keep in touch Big Lou and let us know of any gems you might discover on those connecting roads.

                1. re: big lou

                  Big lou...
                  I think the Tamales you're talking about are Golden West Tamales. The company also makes the Garibaldi brand, but I like the Golden West better. I also grew up in Stockton and my mom brought 'em home frozen and cooked 'em up quite often. She'd either get 'em at the Pioneer Cafe, or Costanza's, also no longer in business. I now live in the Los Angeles area and can't find 'em down here. I've tried google and everything else I could think of and can't find any current info on the company. I still go up to Stockton fairly often to visit my mom and other relatives and we had been buying them at the local Railey's for around $6.00-$7.00/ea. I was up there over Thanksgiving and we cooked up a batch the day before. I understand Railey's may no longer carry them, but my sister says she found 'em at a smaller independent grocery store. Can't remember the name, but I'm sure she could tell me. BTW... my favorite is the white meat turkey. I think you can get beef, lite and dark meat turkey, or all white meat turkey. The sauce they use is to die for, and IMHO, is what really sets them apart from other tamales. They're not at all dry, and like potato chips... I can never eat just one!

                  1. re: sasquatch1

                    Big Lou, Sasquatch1,
                    Garibaldi and Golden West Tamales are now made and distributed By Homestead Pasta Co, located in S San Francisco. Their phone number is 650-615-0750, the web address is I'm sure if you contact them they can help you find where to purchase. Good Luck! I agree sasquatch, Golden West Turkey is the best!

                  2. re: big lou

                    Dear, sweet, misinformed big lou,
                    1. there are no such things as Spanish tamales. The tamal, singular tense, is an invention born in the Americas; native to the North and central Americas. Many of the native indians of Mexico, and central america were maize (native corn) cultures and made the tamal masa out of it.
                    2. good luck, finding a good tamal for $2. Down here in soCal good tamales are going for at minimum $25-30 a dozen.
                    3. unless you know the people really, really well or have word of their reputation on the best authority, please be extremely careful when purchasing anything off the back of someone's tailgate or truck.
                    4. try Sal's restaurant (and not just any Sal's) go to the source...Selma on Park St. Well worth the drive and the wait. !Buen provecho!

                    1. re: Catmandu

                      I think Big Lou was making the point that the ones from Estrada's were not "authentic" Mexican/S. American since they were a departure from the traditional, what we commonly called fusion now days. Many folks aren't aware that Estrada's was a Spanish, not Mexican restaurant.

                2. It just came to me, after seeing the ad on TV, that another option would be Sal's in Selma for some tamales.

                  1. I would agree that some of the best tamales are bought from co-workers. Hubby and I bought a dozen from Fresno City College Music Department and they were very good. The masa was thin and the filling was spicy and flavorful.

                    However, I have seen tamales sold at Fiesta Foods on Tulare St. Given the quality of their other prepared food, I wouldn't hesitate to try them. I know they have a selection of various kinds and a choice of sauces, so might not be a bad place to give them a try! You could also pick up some tortillas, crema, guacamole and other Latino goodies while you are there.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: glazebrookgirl

                      Thanks gbg that's quite a trek for me, but it sure sounds tempting...