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Feb 28, 2009 08:12 PM

Mama's Hot Tamales - First Time

Being a first-timer to Mama’s, I never realized it’s a job training center. The food is prepared, cooked and served by apprentices. Which apparently means the service is better than a lot of professional places in town.

The servers were friendly, and perfectly attentive… No attitude whatsoever, which led to a wonderful experience.

And the food was equally impressive, starting with the house-made tortilla chips. They were perfectly cooked so that some of them were flaky and others were chewy. And the salsas were so good that I ended up buying a jar of the green one. This was getting off to a good start.

The Guatemalan chicken tamale had a rice masa, instead of corn, which had a consistency a little like mashed potatoes. And it was wrapped in a banana leaf instead of a corn husk. I wasn’t really too fond of this masa. The taste wasn’t bad…I just prefer a little firmer texture. But the filling was delicious, with large pieces of tender stringy chicken breast and a tasty, slightly spicy red sauce.

The Mexican pork tamale had the traditional corn masa, and this was a good version. It was more white than yellow, and had a hint of corny sweetness. And the filling was also flavorful like the chicken tamale. This one had good-sized pieces of stringy pork, and a zesty green sauce.

Both tamales, but especially the pork tamale became a little dry toward the end of the meal. I think the rice masa kept the chicken tamale more moist. This was not a deal-breaker, but next time I think I’ll just put a little salsa on top and that should do the trick.

Oh, by the way, they’re only open from 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., but 7 days a week.

Mama’s Hot Tamales
2122 West 7th Street (half block west of Alvarado)
El Lay
(213) 487-7474

Mama's Hot Tamales Cafe
2122 W 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90057

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  1. So glad you liked it... Mama's is very near to my heart for reasons you hit in your first sentence. But I had NO idea you buy a jar of their Salsa!! I'll have to go by soon and pick some up!!


    1. Not a fan of Mama's Hot Tamales here.

      It's sad that Mama's Hot Tamales' quality has really taken a slide over the years. I live in the neighborhood, and I used to go often. I've seen their hours shrink, the availability of the tamales dwindle, and the quality of the food get worse and worse. They seem to only make the tamales in small groups and freeze them, and so their tamales generally lack freshness, and their masa in the Mexican tamales is ho-hum run-of-the-mill Maseca style, nothing like the toothy, fresh ground goodness of La Indiana, for example.

      They were a good deal when they still had the carts in the park across the street and sold the tamales for $1 a piece. The tamales would be fresh back in those days, but that was about four or five years ago. Yes, I like that it's a philanthropic enterprise, but I also want quality for my money, and as Mama's prices go up and quality goes down, I find less and less reason to go there for tamales that are average at best.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Woolsey

        Yes, sadly the selection has gone down and the prices have gone up (Unfortuately grant money doesn't last forever...) but I still find their Mole Negro Tamale one of the best Tamales in the city PERIOD. They also have the most WONDERFUL rice and beans... beans with a proper taste of Epazote.. SO important... Finally, they have other things on their menu now, tortas/tacos and egg dishes. I LOVE their Nopales salad for a good detox dish... And if anything, we stop by because Coffee and Champurado are still really out of this world.