Enjoy tamales at Dia De Los Tamales in Pilsen

Dia De Los Tamales, in Pilsen, is putting a new spin on tamales by fusing the classic tamale with flavors from around the world. (WLS)
May 8, 2014 11:58:16 AM PDT
Chicago has plenty of options when it comes to finding good tamales, especially in Pilsen. But a new tamale shop is turning tradition on its head, by adding quite a few ethnic twists to this Mexican staple.

You expect to see the giant steamer and the corn husk-wrapped savory packages, filled with pork or cheese, but what you don't expect to see at Dia De Los Tamales in Pilsen, is the number of non-Mexican options all wrapped up and ready to eat.

"So we like to come up with fun, creative flavors, something that's a little different, kind of fusion-y mixing all different kinds of other cuisines into tamales, and really turning them into something different," said owner Jeni Wahl.

Take the Juicy Lucy, for example. It begins with standard corn masa, or dough, but cheddar and ground beef are folded into the middle. Then, after it's cooked, it is garnished with cheese, lettuce and mayo, like a tamale burger. A combination of mashed potato and masa form another tamale, this one with brisket. Meanwhile, the aloo gobi nods to India, with a vegan version containing potato and cauliflower curry.

"All 14 that you'll see on the menu all have a different masa, and it's because we really want to infuse the flavor of the whole tamale into each bite," Wahl said.

Tradition dictates a Cuban-style slow-roasted pork with oregano, garlic and sour oranges. There's also a sweet option that includes chocolate peanut butter with a sidecar of whipped cream.

"We really find cool ways to mix them together and do some crazy things," said Wahl.

Now in addition to the 10 regular tamales, they always have four special tamales which rotate frequently, one of which is always vegan and one vegetarian. As a bonus, everything is gluten-free.

Dia De Los Tamales also does catering and special events. You might see their food truck out and about this summer as well.

Dia De Los Tamales
939 W. 18th St.