Christmas in the Mission is all about tamales, and this is the time of year when people get very passionate about who makes the most perfect masa. La Palma Mexica-tessen is where all the Mission mamas in the know go to buy their masa for homemade tamales, but for those of you who don’t plan to D.I.Y., here’s a roundup of all your other best tamale options.
They make awesome tortillas. Also, awesome masa. You will see lines out the door for masa at this time of year, especially come Christmas Eve. And the tamales and tacos they serve in house are pretty great too. 2884 24th Street at Bryant.
You can find Alicia Villanueva and her cart at Justin Herman Plaza every weekday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and her tamales are damn delicious. We’ve written about them before
, and we’re especially fans of her chicken tamales with salsa verde. See her website.
Traci Des Jardins’s popular Ferry Building taqueria is selling chicken tamales in bulk throughout the holidays. The deal is you order before noon, by email to Kevin@mijitasf.com or by phone at 415-399-0814, and they’ll be available for pickup the next day after 3 p.m. It’s $18 for a half dozen, or $30 for a dozen.
Popular farmers’ market vendors All Star Tamales show up at Civic Center every Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and at Alameny Farmers Market every Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. They make a mean tamal, and you can see all the varieties and place a bulk order via their website
Joanne Wier’s Sausalito spot is doing a special Mexican-style series of dinner specials celebrating Las Posadas – “The Pilgrimage.” It kicks off Sunday, December 16, and on Monday the 17th they’ll be doing a tamale trio special, featuring a roasted chicken verde tamal, one with pork adobo, and a vegetarian one with black beans, plantain, and mole rojo. 739 Bridgeway, Sausalito
Another 24th Street staple, La Espiga de Oro
, makes a solid, overstuffed, Guatemalen tamal with a whole chicken drumette inside. 2916 24th Street at Alabama
Another maker of fat tamales, in a Oaxacan style, is La Oaxaquena. They serve both chicken and turkey varieties with Oaxacan mole, wrapped in a banana leaf, as well as corn-wrapped tamales with chicken, pork, and two vegetarian options. See the menu here.
The famous Tamale Lady, a.k.a. Virginia Ramos, is much loved around Mission bars, especially at Zeitgeist where she makes the regular rounds. Her tamales may not be perfect, but they’re quite good, and more than good if you’re drunk. And no list of tamales would be complete without her on it.