Urgent Reader Question – Where To Get Authentic Tamales in DC?

Chicken Tamales, originally uploaded by lucianvenutian.


Hi PoP,
I have an emergency question of the day: Do you know (or have you heard of) a good place to get authentic tamales in the Petworth/Columbia Heights/U St. area? I’m from Texas and they are traditional Chirstmas fare….and I’d love to serve them at a party I am having this weekend (I have a procrastination problem!) Mexican-style is my preference (masa filled with pork and wraped in a corn husk), but I know there are tons of declicious Latin American establishments in the area, so I wouldn’t be adverse to branching out.

Any suggestions are much appreciated!

Check Tina’s post on Pupuseria San Miguel. I’d also check with Taqueria Distrito Federal with locations in Columbia Heights on 14th Street and in Petworth on Kennedy Street.

Surely Odentex will have a few suggestions? Where do you guys get your tamales?

17 Comment

  • For my money, the best place to get tamales, pupusas, carne asada etc is near the border of takoma park and langley park. Personal favorites include the truck parked at the intersection of New Hampshire and 410 and La Casita restaurant at 8214 Piney Branch Rd. Both of these have Salvadoran style tamales

  • while i am no tamale expert, suprisingly the ones they have as an appetizer at the reef are pretty tasty. they were made up by someone who works there and come and go from the menu but i would say they are good.

  • I cant speak to their tamales. but former Pepitos, Now called Super Tacos on Columbia Rd. is really really good. for tacos anyway. better than Taqueria DF though people will hate me for saying so.

  • I haven’t tried them but our own El Limeno sells tamales. If they’re anything like their pupusas, they should be awesome.

  • Sandra Escobar, the chocolatier of The Cacao Tree makes them to order for local delivery, but they are dessert style. Iknow she does regular ones too though, they’re just not on the website, you have to ask for them. She’s Mexican so they are authentic.

    I know she does catering so if you know in advance that you’re having a party or something and want real, authentic tamales, email her at [email protected] or check out http://www.thecacaotree.com (dessert tamales on the website).

    I realize this doesn’t satisfy the craving and wanting to go to a restaurant or carry-out to get them, but I can speak personally that Sandra’s tamales are well worth the wait if you order in advance.


  • Moroni’s sells them. I like ’em but don’t know how authentic they are.

  • I’m firmly in the Taqueria DF camp. I’m from Southern California, so I can sympathize with a Texan who yearns for real tamales. They’re damn tasty. And the owner is very nice — he once shared his birthday cake with everybody who was in the restaurant when his daughters brought it out — so I’d go for those. On 14th at Oak.

  • Luis at DF Tacos is the best. A very good human being. He’s Salvadoran, but lived in Mexico for quite some time, so I”m told. The tacos are pretty tasty, a million times better than the place formerly known as Pepitos. That shit is garbage.

    Our new favorite place outside the city is La Placitas in Riverdale/Hyattsville area. Very authentic, very good, for tacos. Not sure on tamales.

  • Got me stumped, PoP. I’ve never been much of a tamale feller. Tamales usually come on a combo plate back home and by the time I’ve finished the enchilada (yum), the tacos (oh boy!), the riz and frijoles (feelin’ a little tight in the tum), and munched a little pico I don’t usually have room for the neglected lil’ tamale… especially if there is flan to be consumed!

    I think Lil’ Gal has russled up a passel of tamales once for Xmas (you’re ‘sposed to eat them for baby Jesus), but I have to admit I’ve never been a big fan of the cakey lil’ buggers.

    HOWEVER, while our friends at Distrito Federal do not have tamales on the everyday menu, I do understand that they serve them on the weekends. So, your curious inquirer should give one of DF’s locations a ring and ask (202 276-7331) — maybe they’d have them on a Monday still, dunno.

    Can’t vouch for them, but DF’s tacos are purdy good. So I second your thought.

    Best I can do.

    But since we are talking about good food, I would note to them that spend their day near our dear nation’s capital building that the hill has a passable taco place called Taqueria Nacionale (N. Capitol at Louisiana). They ain’t as good as DF, and it won’t cause you to stop pining for a Texas taqueria, but it does more than just remind you of good tacos like most places in DC.

  • I’m skeptical that any “pupuseria” would know what a Mexican tamale is. (Then again, if “Top Chef” was to be believed last night, Washingtonians just don’t know what mole is at all, either.)

  • the tamales at El Limeno are not bad. i usually order them every time i am there.

    DF–i was so psyched when they were coming to Kennedy St. because i heard they had good tamales. alas, i’ll never know. i went there three weekend in a row and ordered tamales, only to be told:

    Weekend (1)–come back in 3 or 4 hours (it was 11:45 am) and we might have some
    Weekend (2)–mid-afternoon–come back later, we might have some
    Weekend (3)–go to Columbia Heights–we have decided that even though they are on our menu you are holding, we aren’t going to serve them here.

    SO i haven’t been back. (they do make a pretty mean pozole, though)

    Good tamales are one of the finest culinary gifts of the Mexican people. i just wish there were extraordinary good ones around here.

  • Moroni’s is Salvadoran-owned so they could be trusted to make Salvadoran-style tamales. I’ve only had Salvadoran ones (I husband is from there) and don’t know how they compare to Mexican ones. Salvadoran tamales, de pollo, de elote (corn), are great. BTW, El Salvador also has the Christmas Eve custom of eating tamales. I always get them from El Torogoz, which does a decent job.
    And a pupusería would surely know what a Salvadoran-style tamal is.

  • I have yet to find a really good authentic Mexican restaurant in DC. Taqueria DF is better than okay. However, coming from Los Angeles and Mexican parents, I am a bit picky. I can’t even find the right ingredients to make them here. So, I have opted to have dear Mom overnight them. If she doesn’t make them herself, she purchases them from Liliana’s in East LA. It’s so worth it.


  • Tacos Pepitos Mexican Bakery on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan probably has them. There are also Mamitas along Columbia Road and in front the Sacred Heart that sell them.

  • DC Dire WOlf has hit on something. I know that parts of Riverdale/Bladensburg, basically east of Kenilworth Avenue and off Annapolis Road have become quite Mexican within the last couple of years. There are several kind of storefront Mexican restaurants in there that might actually not be Salvadoran in disguise. I would check them out. Better take fluent SPanish with you, btw.

  • El Rinconcito, across the street from Giant- I don’t know if they lean more toward Salvadorian or Mexican, but they’re masa filled with pork wrapped in a corn husk. And they’re delicious.

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