Tamales Garibay

Oh the humble tamale. Bastardized via one too many big city food cart; compromised in quality, the result of sitting too long in a steam bath as inebriated customers wait to fill their stomachs with little regard for its construction or contents.


But behold the precious namesake at Tamales Garibay, a three-table storefront hugging the corner of Byron & Kedzie Streets, on Chicago’s far north side. Alicia Romero used to peddle her cylindrical snacks late at night, outside the clubs. She and her family saved their money, bought a former pizza joint, and now make tamales by the dozens everyday.



They begin – as all great tamales do – with fresh corn dough, or masa. Slathered onto dried corn husks, this first layer of defense coats the inner layer of the husk and provides a generous bed for the fillings to come. The basic triumvirate includes: pork with green chilies, chicken-embedded red chilies and a jalapeno-and-cheese combo that would remind me of my ancestors in Puebla, if I actually had any relatives from there. More recently, she’s added a pulled chicken dunked in deep, dark, mole negro, the complex Puebla sauce consisting of some two dozen ingredients. The squash blossoms and cheese are also noteworthy.



Once Romero slathers on the masa, and stuffs it with filling, she wraps up the husk, then places the tamales in a steamer pot on the stove that could easily serve double-duty as a bathtub. After 45 minutes, they’re ready for their close-up: steamy, warm corn dough, enveloping the rich, slightly spicy chile guajillo (red) or serrano (green) and the oozing cheese scattered throughout each bite.  They offer salsa alongside, but they really require no distractions.



Here’s the best part of the deal: for just $5, you can sample three, which is more than enough to feed you and your best friend.


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