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Good Tamales in Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville?

Mrs. Rapini and her visiting mother just got an urge for tamales on Christmas Eve.

Help me, 'hounds. Where might I find good tamales in the East Bay on short notice?


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  1. Tamales Unicos de Cuernavaca has good takeout tamales. For earlier discussion:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/615785 (ignore the map on that post


    Tamales Unicos de Cuernavaca
    5751 Market St, Oakland, CA 94608

    4 Replies
    1. re: hyperbowler

      I just had a pork tamale yesterday - very good! moist and flavorful. if you want it spicier - ask for the chili sauce. $2.25 plus tax ends up at $2.47 IIRC.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          5751 Market St, Oakland was still open last week. not sure about the E14th spot in the link above.

      1. re: hyperbowler

        Unicos is tops and absurdly cheap.

        Tamales Unicos de Cuernavaca
        5751 Market St, Oakland, CA 94608

      2. The Tamale Queen (Maria Martinez) on Fruitvale in Oakland near the BART station. Except that I drove past a few weeks ago and it looked like she might have closed. Does anyone have current information on this?

        1 Reply
        1. re: GH1618

          I was wondering the same thing. I have not seen her this year. Up until this year, she had been selling her wares outside the Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale in early February. This year she was not there.

        2. I enjoy the tamales at Picante.

          1. On Fruitvale Avenue (Oakland) is a trailer cart in a parking lot between Fruitvale Market and Oasis Market, just east of International as shown on the Google satellite. East 15th Street dead ends into this parking lot. This is a signalized intersection, which is convenient when exiting the lot. Unfortunately, I can't recall the name of the cart.

            I've enjoyed the pork and the cheese tamale, baggies of salsa are offered for to go orders. They also offer papusas.

            1. La Borinqueña in Old Oakland has pork ones made with lard and also totally vegetarian ones
              If you wanted to hop over to sf there is a fantastic grocery store in Mission that has several types - Mexican, Salvadorean znd Nicaraguan that are among the best I've ever had

              4 Replies
              1. re: fruti

                Second La Borinquena- I get a dozen every year. They may be a good bet for a last-minute purchase, as they are always available on the regular menu (people were ordering them for dine-in when I picked mine up yesterday afternoon) and they often have frozen tamales on sale just after the New Year. Buen provecho!


                La Borinquena Mex-Icatessen
                582 7th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                1. re: fruti

                  There was a place around the corner from La Borinquena that sold tamales by the dozen. La Michoacana.

                  Not sure if they're still in business, but I liked them better than La Borinquena's

                  1. re: drewskiSF

                    Was that the house w/ the tamale sign out front? That sign's been gone for a few months now.

                    1. re: kc72

                      yes, that's the one :(

                      hopefully the proprietor retired. he seemed like a really nice guy.

                2. Casa Latina, a small Mexican bakery in Berkeley, has excellent tamales.

                  Casa Latina
                  1805 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: arktos

                      Yes! I didn't remember whether they were Nicaraguan or Guatemalan, but they're very good.

                  1. Tamales for Jesus http://www.eastbayexpress.com/WhatThe...

                    2 for $5. not as large as Unicos, but very flavorful. Killer green sauce. Only chicken, pork and cheese

                    Mary and her teen son man a wood grill/smoker at MacArthur and Martin Luther King
                    M-F 10-5:00 Extremely thoughtful folks.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: bunnysitter

                      Thanks for the first mouth report. We've been tracking the food activity on that corner for ages. Here's the thread, which eventually gets to the tamales, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/36984

                      Is it possible to get a grilled tamale?

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        I've never heard of a grilled tamale and I grew up in LA surrounded by tamales and old school tamale makers. But, I can't see any reason not to try it on an outside grill with husk on for smokey flavor, mesquite wood?

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          If anyone has grilled a tamale, it's probably Bobby Flay.

                          1. re: smoothiemaster

                            Well, plain old rworange had grilled taImales last year for New Year's day on a beach in Guatemala. They are excellent grilled. No special wood just a big old piece of dead tree.


                            The tamal process starting at live chicken


                            We haven't had the Guatemalan tamales yet from Linda's Bakery in Richmond yet. I did find a new place in Richmond that has both Mexican and Guatemalan tamales at the corner of Cutting and Carlson, taqueria C&C.

                            This started out as a market and bakery but replaced the bakery with a taqueria serving Mexican, Guatemalan and Salvadoran food. I'll give them a try next week.

                            They have a few more Guatemalan dishes such as pollo en crema (think the GT version of chicken a la king), rellenitos, Guatemalan empanadas and, i have to think, the fried chicken is Guatemalan.

                            i was hoping they would have Gautemalan pan francais as the shameful ... shamefull ... Panaderia Guatemalateca on 23rd had totally empty shelves on early Christmas morning. Seriously, after a few years in business they couldn't figure out how much to bake for Christmas eve?

                            1. re: rworange

                              Tamales on the beach, sounds fabulous!

                          2. re: Melanie Wong

                            Mary also offers a chicken and maybe hot links or rib plate from the grill. I've not tried. Tamales are premade from the church and warmed to eat or to take home.

                          3. re: bunnysitter

                            Unfortunately, the tamale stand and smoker at MacArthur and MLK near the MacArthur BART have been gone for a few months now.

                            If anybody sees what looks like a cloud-puffing small steam locomotive on wheels with red hand-shaped rods sticking out from it, please let us know.

                          4. Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts. Tamales Unicos de Cuernavaca was still taking late orders; and I'm on my way to International Blvd. to pick up some festive holiday tamales.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: Rapini

                              Did they move? or is there a second location?

                              Unicos de Cuernavaca
                              3831 International Blvd, Oakland, CA

                              Tamales Unicos de Cuernavaca
                              5751 Market St, Oakland, CA 94608

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                There's a note by Scrapironchef on the original record saying that the shop would be moving in Sept 2011 to Interrnational Blvd.

                                Maybe Gordon can tell us which address is correct, since he was just there.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  3829 International. It actually says something like Mi Tamaleria on the window, but the person who took my order on the phone made a point of telling me that it is the same owners as Market Street. Truth or fiction? I have no idea.

                                    1. re: Rapini

                                      the address is actually 3831. 3829 is the former metro place next door
                                      this used to be "churro station"
                                      "mi pupuseria", 689-4555, is in the same locale
                                      when mi tamaleria open, the unicos sign was on a standing board outside but no more.

                                      1. re: Rapini

                                        Mi Tamaleria is gone. RIncon..... is there selling guatemalan tamales ($2).

                                      2. re: Melanie Wong

                                        I've been to the new location and talked with the owner, he's still running both locations. I was told originally that he was going to close the old spot.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          I went to the original location on 5751 Market Street Oakland.

                                          1. re: gordon wing

                                            Thanks y'all for confirming the two locations. I'll fix the address. If anyone has the phone numbers, please chime in.

                                      3. re: Rapini

                                        The chicken were very good, and chock full of filling. The cheese were a little light on the cheese, but had slivers of chiles alongside the cheese for a nice flavor. [Mrs. Rapini put some tomatilla salsa on the cheese tamales, which apparently helped].

                                      4. da best in price and quality is tamales acapulco, 1680 fruitvale ave.(610-0i99)
                                        they're located in a camper in a parking lot between 2 businesses. short hours. when they sell out, they close, usually early afternoon. $2 gets you salsa and tamale with breast meat

                                        tamale carts all over the fruitvale selling from 1.50-2, their source: tameles mi lupitas, 3340 foothill blvd.