The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Tamales

Don't let this happen to you.
Don't let this happen to you.
Photo by George Hatcher

If your family is anything like my own, tamales are a Christmas staple. And in my family, tamale-making typically begins the day after Thanksgiving with several pots of stewed meat on the stove, several pounds of corn husks and giant vats of masa laid out like a Ford assembly line between the dining room and the kitchen.

Of course, not every family makes their tamales from scratch. (Hell, we don't even do that anymore. Sorry, future generations of Gonzales kids.) So for the rest of us, here's a list of the 10 best places in town to snag your tamales in time for the Christmas season.

Remember: Order early and order a lot. Tamales hold up in the freezer almost as well as ice cream.

The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Tamales
Photo by Troy Fields

Honorable Mention: Radical Eats

Although these vegan tamales aren't for everyone, they certainly would make the vegetarians and vegans in your life quite happy at Christmas (or any other time of year). And as with most of Staci Davis's exceptional Tex-Mex fare, you won't miss the meat -- and you'd be hard-pressed to tell that her masa is lard-free.

The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Tamales
Photo by Troy Fields

10. Sylvia's

Chef and owner Sylvia Casares is so well-known for her tamales that she occasionally shows others how to recreate them in her popular tamale-making classes -- if you're lucky enough to snag a spot. For the holidays, Sylvia's will be selling its pork and chicken tamales for $18 a dozen, but you'll need to order well in advance.

The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Tamales
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

9. Porra's Prontito

This little bakery-cum-restaurant-cum-convenience store in Denver Harbor almost defies definition. And with its broken ceiling tiles, dim florescent lighting and degraded linoleum floors, it has definitely got a far more intense hole-in-the-wall vibe than places such as Alamo or Doña Tere. But both the food and the cheerful attitude of the staff will make you forget all of that once you're inside. ​Porra's offers tamales for a mere $8 a dozen and the masa-to-meat ratio is heavy on the masa side (not bad if -- like us -- you enjoy "deaf" tamales with no filling).

The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Tamales
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

8. TQLA

At this Southwestern-meets-Tex-Mex temple to tequila, the star of the menu is the wild mushroom tamale (seen above) filled with goat cheese and topped with mushroom cream, roasted corn and sundried tomato salsa. And when it's on the menu, the sweet potato masa-wrapped tamale that holds a filling of rich, fatty duck is even better.



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