Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >
Dec 12, 2009 01:03 PM

Tamales in DC/MD area

Where might I find the best tamales in the area? Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Here is a thread about this issue that I posted in August

    1. El Rinconcito has two locations: one in the 1300 block of Park Rd., NW about a block away from the Colombia Heights Metro station and at 11th and M, NW. Reliably very good. If you go there, they have a great dish, the carne deshilada. Order it with egg.

      Some mention is made of the difference between Central American and Mexican tamales in the other thread. Central American tamales are usually quite a bit 'wetter' than Mexican tamales, easily fall apart, and sometimes vegetables and meats are incorporated into the dough itself. I hate those.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Steve

        Wow this breaks my heart Steve... tell me about the Central American tamales you've had and hate...and do you know any Mexican tamal you tried in Nova? I haven't been been to Columbia Heights... yet =)

        1. re: helenahimm

          I think that Salvadoran tamales are quite wonderful. Favorites include Irene's in Wheaton.

          1. re: helenahimm

            Not to say that all tamales from Central America are the same. Some of the Salvadoran places serve the tight, compact style. But I have noticed some are the 'wet' style that I have never seen from a Mexican restaurant. There are good tamales at La Union Carry Out on Lee Hwy near Taylor. And of course Taqueria El Charrito Caminante. I can't remember exactly where I've had the 'wet' style, except from a Costa Rican neighbor of mine. But I'm pretty sure I've had that style also at the Guatemalan place on Glebe Rd. next to Ravi Kabob as well as at a Honduran place next to Bon Chon Chicken in Annandale and maybe also El Catrin in the back of the Willston Shopping Center. Sometimes when I go into a Salvadoran market, they will have a warmer at the cash register that has the wet style. If I run across it again, I'll make sure to make note of it.

            1. re: Steve

              Oh if you find Tamales in the Charrito Caminante tasty then I will make sure to save few tamales from my next batch for you Steve =) It could be that Iam used to our flavours in Panama, but I think the seasoning is so much key and most of the Central American dishes here I find them a little blend... good texture and looks, but blend when it comes to taste.

              I had a tamal at Guarapo the other day it did had some flavour to it, which told me I should definitively make some Tamales and give it away to all my friends who rave about them Mexican Tamales (nothing personal amigos! =)

              I am not used to have garbanzos, potatoes, beans or cheese inside of Tamales, Mom always says starch inside of starch is just good for desserts =) however It does give some texture... On my side you will just find olives, raisins, prune, pieces of chicken or pork, good guiso, grilled onions and peppers, peas & carrots... it won't be crunchy but it shouldnt be soggy either.

              Will try the Guatemalan on Glebe Rd. this week and will post my notes.

              On the Wet Tamales, do you mean like "Tamal de Olla"? like this?

              We make that one when we just have 3 tamales for 4 or 5 people so we open them all (at least in my family) and throw a little of chicken stock, more vegetables and serve it with a side of rice, salad and Gallina Guisada (drier version of Chicken Stew I guess).


              1. re: helenahimm

                No not like the photo in your link. They look mostly like regualar tamales but will have chickpeas, other veggies, and chicken mixed into it, instead of just being a stuffing in the middle. Once they are unwrapped from their banana leaf, they fall apart easily compared to the corn husk tamales.

                1. re: Steve

                  Oh dear those are bad tamales then =) I was curious... the ones wrapped in Banana leaves should hold as well as the ones stuffed in corn husks... but interesting those tamales you are describing.

        2. Tamales are like barbecue: there are a dozen different styles, and if you don't specify what you're looking for, you're likely to be disappointed. Can you describe what you're looking for more specifically in terms of wet vs. dry, loose vs. tight, large vs. small, spicy vs. mild, types of fillings (if any)?

          1. Tropical Grill (formerly Don Panchito's) on Cranbrook Rd. in Cockeysville, MD has good tamales.

            1. How about some of the less unusual styles of tamales? I've been looking for a place that serves corundas michoacanas - the pyramid style unfilled tamales in fresh corn leaves. We had a family friend that would make them but she's moved away. I have never found them in the mid Atlantic. Does anyone know of a local restaurant/store that has corundas?

              6 Replies
              1. re: llsayer

                The Bolivian version is called Humintas. I have had them at El Pike and Luzmilla's in Falls Church. It is probably best to get there early though, they might run out before dinner. Luzmilla's is open until 5pm only.

                1. re: Steve

                  I went the other day to El Pike to try some "Salteñas" and they were good, I am just not used to the idea of having eggs stuffed on pastries.

                  Now, I will be driving around Columbia Pike in a few minutes so I will stop and ask for a Humintals to give it a try..

                  it reminds me of "Bollo" it's like a tamal (it could be stuffed or not stuffed) savory or sweet... (sweet ones are made with honey and coconut).

                  I will report later =



                  1. re: Steve

                    I had the Humintas, it was interesting... it made me think of "Torrejitas" but a little sweeter...

                    i know I make a big deal of things but the menu said 1.50 and then the man charged me $2 for each one. The corn was a little burned but still it is a very good portion for $2. I asked the waitress if the Humintas were made with a touch of Anise, she denied it so please tell me Steve did you taste a hint of it at all or was it just my palate? (it didn't bother me i jsut was curious).


                    1. re: helenahimm

                      I know what you mean by the hint of anise, but no, I don't think they use any.

                      I did my own saltena-tasting recently and there was a clear winner: Luzmilla's in Falls Church City. Get one early (Noon) and it will be super hot, gushing with liquid, spicy, savory, and all-around very good. Only the pastry shell at La Caraquena is better. For the past several years I have been eating mostly chicken saltenas, but now I've come to like the beef better. More savory.

                      Luzmilla's is excellent overall.

                      1. re: Steve

                        I will try the Salteñas one more in this Luzmilla place then =)

                        What about chilenas? I wasn't crazy about Julias Empanadas place to be honest.

                        Speaking of "tamales" When I first came to DC the first place some friends took me was On the Border (awful), Chillis (I wanted to die), Don Pablos (I thought of going back to Panama), and then Chevys and then I thought not all these chains were as terrible (i think it was the $3.00 appetizers and drinks who made me less angry lol)... anyways... they serve some kind of "tamalito" on the side it's a little sweet... have you had that in any restaurant or is it something they made up?

                        1. re: helenahimm

                          I wasn't familiar with chilenas or tamalitos. so I looked them up. Chilenas are a Chilean-style meat pie and tamalitos are a like a small tamale. Since I haven't eaten in any of the chains you listed in a long time, I don' t know about their version, but it is apparently not made up.

                          Chilenas also appears to be slang that has something to do with female pulchritude, so I'm guessing the food is pretty well packed with meat.