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Jul 6, 2009 12:56 PM

Best Tamales in Portland

Where are the best tamales found in Portland? I grew up in the Southwest and spent summers in Mexico so I've had some pretty great tamales in my life (a few bad ones too!).
I'm very open to all styles, however, traditional, gourmet, low-end, high-end. I'm just curious to find what chowhounders think. I'm looking for restaurants or carts.

I apologize if this has already been posted, I tried a search but had no luck so if there are past posts, please let me know. Thank you!

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  1. I haven't tried a lot of tamales around town, but I'm a fan of the style at Sabor Salvadoreno.

    5 Replies
    1. re: SauceSupreme

      thank you. I'll go check them out.

      Anyone else out there have any ideas?

      1. re: sophiamaria

        I'll finally try them this weekend (they only have them on weekends), but the tamales at La Estacion (the sign is misspelled, "La Estation"--I imagine that is the sign maker's fault) on NE Killingsworth look really amazing. They are made there, and wrapped in banana leaves...the place has a Yucatecan slant so they might be filled with chicken and or pork, not sure. While there on the weekend, try the weekend-only cochinita pibil, and get some panuchos (get a couple with the traditional topping, but also weekend-only turkey!!!). some of the best Mexican in town, crappy ambience and NO LINE because it's not on the trendy folks' radar. Selfishly, I hope it stays that way, and pretty sure it will because, even though the food is really good, it just ain't ever gonna be hip.

        1. re: sambamaster

          I'm definitely a fan of La Estacion, but I haven't had the tamal. Looks like I have yet another excuse to go back.

          1. re: sambamaster

            Folks, I took one for the team today and had the La Estacion tamales....RUN, DON'T WALK over there this weekend before they run out. This Yucatecan-style tamal (other than the banana leaf, not sure what made it so) was one of the best I ever had...well, let's say 2 of the best I ever had since after eating one, I had to get another. They are pork only, but those are big juicy chunks of pork. The masa was tender, moist and flavorful, one of the most flavorful of any I've had anywhere. (My dad made tamales frequently and I've had them all over Texas and Mexico, down through Oaxaca, Michoacan, etc.) They are only $1.50 each and are worth every cent. I'll wager they are the best in town since most restaurant tamales are usually a bit on the dry side, with relatively bland masa. I'm betting they use meat broth and lots of lard in this masa, it was just too good, rich and full of flavor. And the cochinita pibil was exceptional today...the best I've had there. Please, don't let this information get out. Let Por Que No keep their crowds of folks lining up to pay twice as much for food that, at best, is not quite half as best. Sorry, no tofu burritos here. Not sure if they have ANY burritos at all, thank god.

            Besides, watching the strippers go to work next door (and their customers coming and going) is always great research for some sort of sociological study.

            1. re: sambamaster

              La Estacion's Panuchos are delicious! They are the best ever. I haven't had their tamales or cochinita Pibil.

        2. Not the most traditional, but I really dig the artichoke & cotija tamales from Salvador Molly's. They're available at the Saturday and Wednesday farmer's markets as well as at the restaurant. (I prefer getting them from the markets since the restaurant is a little out of the way for me)

          8 Replies
          1. re: goodbyeohio

            Both of these sound great. Thank you so much!

            1. re: sophiamaria

              I saw the fabled tamale lady pulling her cooler on rollers at NE 24th & Broadway. Is this the same lady seen on Alberta, perhaps? Anyone had them? I'll try one next time I see her...

                1. re: Leonardo

                  I'm not sure if it is the same woman that is over on Hawthorne sometimes but if it is, they are awesome!

                  Thanks everyone for your help. I've got some tamale eating to do and I'll let you know what I find.

                  1. re: Leonardo

                    I had the great opportunity to run into the "fabled Tamale lady, Maria." Her tamales' are the BEST that I've ever had in my life. Maria is Guatemalan and the her Guatemalan Tamales are better than all the Mexican Tamales I've ever had! I've gone back to "find" her but I haven't been lucky enough to find her a 2nd time. I wish I would've asked her for her schedule, the days and times she sells them on Alberta Street. I will keep going back until I can spot her and buy a couple of dozen!

                    1. re: avilaruiz70

                      Today, tamale lady is at the Mississippi Street Fair. It was excellent, and a generous portion.

                      1. re: Leonardo

                        Wondering if it's the same lady? Do u remember if she was dressed in Native Guatemalan clothes (regalia) Skirt, shawl in striped, vertical, vibrant colors? She's at least in her 50's and goes by Maria? Im heading over there hopefully, she's still there. Thank you :)

                  2. re: sophiamaria

                    report back once you've completed your study!

                2. There's the place in Milwaukie, Casa de Tamales:

                  I have not been there, but I hear it's some of the best in town...

                  1. If you're ever heading south on I-5, you might stop by Salvador's Bakery in Woodburn. Fantastic tamales, along with some of the best tacos al pastor you will ever have anywhere, including Mexico.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: MichaelG

                      oooh, I always wondered where to find the good ones in Woodburn. Thanks for your help.

                      there are no tamales there, but I finally tried Nuevo Mexico for lunch today. It was really good, I had the ground beef stuffed sopa with green chile. I highly recommend it!

                      1. re: MichaelG

                        There is a Salvador's in Salem too on Silverton Road, just before you get to Lancaster heading east. I get tamales to go, $12 a dozen. They are standard pork tamales with nice chunks of pork (not mystery meat). They are very good.

                        1. re: Amecameca

                          mr or ms Meca...
                          You need to come try the tamales at La Estacion....went there again today. Wow, they are great. Next Saturday, it's relleno negro!!!! Or have you been in the PNW tooooo long????? Ha!

                      2. One of the downtown food carts, La Jarochita on SW 5th and Oak, has a banana-wrapped tamal as well.