We only eat tamales at Christmas because quite frankly, they can become a somewhat unhealthy addiction. We buy ours from Helen's Bakery at Lomas & San Pedro. She's open until 8 pm every day (including 12/24). A dozen is $16 and they are very nice and fat and tasty. Not as good as the ones we used to make (135 doz at one sitting in 2001...my eyes are still glazed over) but the best we've found since coming to Abq. Pair those tamales w/a good Zinfandel if you don't drink beer. We haven't tried El Modelo, but if someone here can include an address we'll try theirs.
Vegetarian tamales? To me a tamale is one of those items that can't be satisfactorily made without meat or meat broth/drippings. You can call it a tamale, but it's just....just not. Like trying to make prime rib vegetarian. Or eating tofurkey.
Obviously you've never been to Mexico (you know, that place where they've been making real tamales for a number of centuries). You can get delicious pineapple and cheese and chile tamales on the street every day. Oh, I would strongly suggest that everyone stay far away from Helen's. I know it looks intriguing (it's got this awesome All-American dive thing on the outside and is puro mexicano on the inside), but that shit is awful. Everything we got there was awful . . the tamale my wife had, the posole, the pan dulce, everything tasted horrible and maybe tainted. There are good panaderias in this town, but Helen's is definitely not one of them. For wonderful non-NM style tamales (not veg, though) go to Pupuseria Salvadoreña. They are tender, delicious, and full of chicken, potatoes, capers (!), and green olives. I'd say the Mujeres en Accion tamales are pretty damn good, as well.
Yum! Went there with a small Saturday circle of friends who try out new(to us) places each saturday. it was indeed awesome! their burritos were very good too. picked up a bag of pastries too will sample them over the week. place is a little outside many people's comfort zone, but the fact that they sell real sugar coke is a great point in their favor!.
I like the way you think, although I should warn you that saying anything negative or "bad" about local favorites is like naming a teddy bear Muhammad on DCF. Just check out what happened when I said something bad about the Frontier people. But all "New Mexicans" (natives, semi natives, and anyone else included) seem to believe that New Mexican "cuisine" is the mother cuisine of all Latin cultures and anything else is just simply wrong. I can not tell you how many times I've heard a New Mexican complain about asking for green enchiladas and getting salsa verde, then freaking out that it was not New Mexican green enchiladas. Or, better, the relleno thing, if it is not a NM green chile stuffed with cheese and covered with "red or green," then it is wrong in their eyes. I can say "relleno just means stuffed, it is not a specific dish to NM" until i am blue in the face and I still don't think anyone is listening. If any of these true lovers of chile/ Latin American (whatever that means)cuisine/ or Mexican food could just take a trip to The Warzone or the South Valley and hit up the little restaurants that they have never been to, a lot more readers would see the extent of Latin American cuisine and culture in Albuquerque. We have so many immigrants from La Frontera and central America, and they open up restaurants that feature their cuisine, and it is good food. The Torta stands, El Mezquite supermarkets, Price Rite in the South Valley (owned by Kroger, but they know their market, and it is an amazing place. At least 30 different kinds of chile) The little carnecerias, tortillerias, & and panaderias. All of these people who open these places are from someplace different- whether it is Guatemala or El Salvador, or Durango, Ciudad Chihuahua or Cuahetemoc, there is even a Phillipino place on Louisianna that no one has talked about and it is 4 blocks from everyones beloved Ta Lin (if you really want to be blown away with what you thought you knew about Latino food try Phillipino food, they use the same names for all the food we know but it is predominently Asian) This is what Albuquerque has become, and the people who have shopped at the same place for 14 years, or who think that The Frontier has good food should venture out of their little nooks and crannies and see that Albuquerque has turned into a city of MORE... not just Ta Lin, La Montanita, Frontier, and the
Nob Hill/Ridgecrest/Fairgrounds/Downtown/106-108 neighborhoods. This is a city that has something more and, actually always had something more for a long time (I've been here in 1980 and have never had a problem finding ethnic diversity from Swedes to Laotians since I moved here,) but people still want to shop at the same place for 14 years rather than try a new immigrants restaurant, I guess that is what makes Albuquerque great. Right.
OMG thank goodness.....someone who knows there's life beyond Ta Lin (A Gardena CA rip off btw)--------thru----106-108 neighborhoods. I came here from CA 3.5 yrs ago and I was afraid I'd miss the wonderful restaurants in southern CA...and I am a veteran hole-in-the-wall conniseur (sp?). We're talking some dives. The Brentwood or Newport thing was a rare treat. The only thing we are missing in Abq from a culinary point of view is a corner/hole in the wall authentic Italian place and Zankhow Chicken (Armenian). Still haven't found them but we've certainly enjoyed the search thus far. We don't do the Coop or the Frontier because we can't see whats so great about them and we rarely shop in Nob Hill due to crappy customer service. All those types of foods/people/places you mentioned...well, we love and miss that stuff and will be spending the next few months (or years) checking them out! Ethinic diversity doesn't concern me....culinary diversity makes my world. This city has both.
Sigh. Yes, I've been to Mexico many, many times. We don't care for sweet tamales; we prefer the savory ones. We've been enjoying Helen's for a long time and have never had any bad luck with anything purchased there. Certainly nothing "tainted." However, we are always up to trying new places so will remember Pupuseria Salvadorena for a future visit.