-Grubbing in ChicagoEating Tamales at Hot Dog Stands
Aside from hot dogs there might not be a single item more associated with a Chicago hot dog stand than tamales. To many old school Chicagoan's tamales are more likely to be enjoyed with a hot dog than a taco. It goes back to as early as 1927. That's when Iltaco got it's start. Iltaco being short for Illinois Tamale Company. During that time tamales were a big thing. Sold by tamale vendors in the streets along with chili, the tamale was a part of many peoples diets back then. Iltaco was one of the firsts to start selling them commercially though they later focused in on the pizza puff leaving Tom Tom Tamale to carry the torch. The Chicago style hot dog stand tamale is factory made from cheap ingredients. The filling is said to be beef but there's soy too. To this day Chicago tamales are easily found around town and in many cases it's the only non sausage or potato item that some of the city's most historic stands sell. Today we head to three hot dog stands where the tamale stands out.
Chicago's Original Maxwell Street on Western
The Southside of the city is littered with Maxwell style sausage stands that mimic the originals now found on Union ave. This one is located at 53rd and Western right around Gage Park. Like most of the others it's a 24 hour operation. Unlike some of the others they have a little area where customers can eat during the winter. Otherwise it's a walk up to the window and order establishment. They advertise jumbo "homemade" tamales which always caught my eye. I stopped to try one, and a Polish sausage, this past summer. I was thinking I was going to get a large classic Mexican style tamale but was semi surprised to find I was given an extra large version of a Chicago style tamale. I've never seen one this big and quite frankly I never need to again. I know quite a few people who view the Chicago style tamales as no more than a topping for your chili. That was the case with this one which was double the cornmeal mush and mystery meat which meant double the dryness.
Jumbo "Homemade" Tamale and Polish Sausage at Chicago's Original Maxwell Street
The tamales at my local hot dog stand are different than most other hot dog spots around town. Little Mel's has been in the Logan Square neighborhood right off the California blue line longer than most people living in the area. It's a family owned spot with them always being there. The Chicago style fast food side to the menu is pretty typical with the prices being stuck in the 90's. There's also some Mexican stuff including the moms homemade Oaxacan style tamales. At just $2 each they're a great snack that come served with a mild red salsa and filled with lots of shredded chicken. I love when neighborhood hot dog stands feature international menu items from their family's ethnic background.
Oaxacan style Tamale at Little Mel's Hot Dogs
Parky's Hot Dogs
I could've sworn I wrote about this Forest Park favorite before. If you grew up in or near the OPRF area you probably already know about Parky's. It's a classic Chicago style hot dog stand that has a legion of fans. Parky's is one of the city's few stands that doesn't use Vienna beef hot dogs instead opting for a pretty typical pork-beef blend. They may have their fans but I'm not one of them. That said I can find other ways to love a hot dog stand that's been around since 1947. One of them is just the design of the place. It's futuristic design always catches the eye when riding by on Harlem. Another thing to like about Parky's are the fresh cut fries. I recently learned from friend of the food chain David Hammond that they make a really great chili cheese tamale. A blue collar favorite found at many Chicagoland hot dog stands. Here they throw a bunched tamale (four small ones) into a bowl with their homemade Texas red chili. You can get cheese and or sport peppers if you want. You do. Best use of a Tom Tom I’ve tried. It makes for a great ingredient in the chili which is very well made.
Chili Tamale at Parky's Hot Dogs
5304 S Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60609
2205 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
Parky's Hot Dogs
329 S Harlem Ave
Forest Park, IL 60130