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Outrageously tasty and cheap tamale in out-of-the-way place

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Remember the late, lamented tamale place on 4th Ave and 11th Street? I don't think there's any connection, but these guys are channeling the spirit. They might even be better. (Though it's a little 'apples-and-oranges,' since the old tamale place mostly featured outstanding Oaxeno tamales, while these are more classic northern Mexican corn-husk packages).

Where am I talking about? You're not going to believe this, but F Train Bagels, a seemingly unexceptional bagel deli that's apparently run (or staffed) by Mexicans. Anyone know it?

There's a little hand-written sign outside advertising tamales, so we gave them a try, and the cheese ones, at least, were outstanding. Big, most, mushy-yet-firm. Generous with both cheese and jalapenos. Two of these would really fill you up, whereas left to my own devices, I could probably put away 3-4 usual-size ones. At $1.50, they're a culinary and budgetary revelation. And the fact that they're so improbably excellent in such a place just made it that much more of a triumph. They also have pork -- and probably beef or chicken, too, depending on the day -- but I'm a veggie, so I can't vouch for the others. But I can't wait to go back and have more and get the story behind the bagel-tamale connection. Ah, New York.

It's on the far end of Smith St. at 9th -- definitely NOT trendy part of Smith St.! So next time you're biking around Gowanus, or driving en route to Lowe's, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, etc., pop by and check it out.

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  1. excellent lead.
    i found great tamales today in a more expected place - Sunset Park. 5th ave near 46th street - La Guera Restaurant. They had them in a cooler at the front door. $1.25 each. Had a pork mole tamale and a spicy tomatillo-chicken tamale. Very moist, enough filling, heavenly.

    1. I know it, not for its tamales but because it made the Times a couple of years back when the MTA brought legal action to make them change their name and signage: They had no right to the name "F Train"!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Amy Mintzer

        It's true. A funny, lame story. They still have a big orange circle in front, with the "F" removed. Bagels and such seem okay, but nothing special. But see what you think of the tamales. I still feel bad that i didn't do my part to keep the old 4th Ave place alive, and really want to spread the word and give them the love. It's one thing to get tamales in Sunset Park or on the Red Hook ballfields, but the're somehow even more satisfying when you've found good ones at some out-of-the-way place you wouldn't expect them . . . and it does seem to happen a fair amount with tamales, especially!

        1. re: fmogul

          Do you know if they have them in the morning? I have to bring my kids to 4th and Bond at 10, so I could swing by.

          Also, let me recommend (as I have before) the tamales at Lopez bakery, 5th Ave and 18th.

      2. I actually love the bagels at F-Line Bagels. They are good old-fashioned bagels. In fact, I think they are the best bagels in the Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill neighborhoods. Fairway in Redhook has better bagels. Sometimes I get the bagel special with hard-boiled eggs, olive oil and zataar spices. Very good.
        I so love a good tamale. Will try next time I am there. My favorite tamale is from the Fancy Deli (I think that is it) on Hoyt Street, between State and Atlantic. Fantastic. And, was $1.25 a tamale as of last year. Don't know if they raised their prices.

        1 Reply
        1. re: suefrombrooklyn

          Fast & Fresh Burrito. I was there on Saturday and had a pork tamale. Think they were still under $2. Had an awesome spicy pork torta as well!