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Casa de Tamales

Casa de Tamales

Reviewed by Dead in 60 Dives on Apr 25, 2011

What's it like?

The journey to eat continues this week at Casa de Tamales. I didn’t know at the time when Bo and I stopped in but this brand new restaurant is garnering quite a lot of buzz around Fresno and I soon found out why. We actually stopped here on our way to a taquaria and were only going to pick up a menu but things looked so interesting we chose instead to place an order and give this place a go. What I instantly noticed was the almost meticulous planning that had gone into this little restaurant. It was clean, immaculate even, the menu was flawless, the logo is incredibly brand-able and you had to ask if this was actually a chain. The answer is no, this is the only Casa de Tamales but I almost see it as impossible that this place wouldn’t become a chain or even a franchise in the near future. This is a family owned establishment and yes they have a story but they have a website for that. I am here to tell you about tamales.

The menu is divided into three sections, Traditional Tamales, Gourmet Tamales, and Sweet (dessert) Tamales. The traditional are gourmet as well as far as I am concerned. They take tried and true tamales such as pork and beef then garnish them with things such as grilled pineapple salsa, roasted corn, and a menagerie of complex sauces. The gourmet tamales have fairly interesting fillings, stuff you might find in a Bay Area crepe shop such as portabella and asparagus or soy chorizo. They have ingredients that are definitely speaking to people with vegetarian sensibilities, an uncommon shout out in the Valley. Before I tasted anything I felt that I was in for something more than I had expected.

I tried a traditional shredded beef ($2.89) served with guacamole as well as a gourmet spinach and artichoke ($3.29) which was served with roasted corn. The traditional shredded beef was solid, a fresh and moist choice that wouldn’t have been out done by too many tamalada parties at your Abuelas house. The spinach and artichoke was fantastic. They used a red masa which ascetically makes you feel like you are eating something more natural which the hippy in me likes but the flavors themselves where on another level as well. Spinach and artichoke is a common combination in other kinds of faire but not so much in tamales. When many people make dishes with spinach and artichoke it is almost expected that one flavor will be over powering but Casa de Tamales did not make that mistake. Everything was fresh and there was no bitterness in the veggies and a cheesy creamy sauce that smoothed everything out without making it too rich. The best thing about it was that you were eating something with these ingredients but you still knew, (due to culinary prowess) that you were eating Mexican food. Bo ordered a traditional green tomatillo chicken and a New Mexico chile pork with beans and rice as a combo platter ($6.99) and added a dessert tamale for an added dollar fifty. Bo’s tamales were fantastic. The tomatillo sauce was an amazing compliment to the tamale, it was tangy but not abrasive and the New Mexico chile pork was also great. It had a delightful red sauce and was served with the grilled pineapple salsa which paired together was superb. The way they took a traditional Caribbean idea, pork and grilled pineapple and a really traditional Sonoran (North Mexico) sauce and made that into a “traditional” pork tamale was genius.

The sweet tamale was a blueberry and cream cheese with fresh blueberries and whipped cream. They used blueberries in the masa and it was served warm. I think it is obvious how good this was. They also had sweet tamales made with strawberries, cinnamon raisin, or a host of other choices. I have eaten a lot of tamales and I never stopped to think as a foodie or as a chef about the potential of diversity in corn masa. It really lends itself to dessert and that isn’t something I feel most people think about. Casa de Tamale is truly doing something interesting and original. They are taking the model of a gourmet crepe shop and making damn good tamales. I have lived in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Brooklyn and it is rare I can say something in Fresno would be great in those places (as it is usually vice-versa) but Casa de Tamales could survive anywhere and it is only a matter of time before they (or someone emulating them) do. Visit the Sanchez family at Casa de Tamales on West Shaw and someday you may be bragging to people that you used to eat at the first one.

Casa de Tamales: DEAD IN 60 APPROVED !!!


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SavageSam  |  Wed, 2011-05-25 11:11

Thanks man. Excellent review.

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Anonymous (not verified)  |  Mon, 2012-11-19 14:21

I'm from San Diego and here in Fresno for the holidays. I'm searching for someplace that knows how to make really good, authentic tamales...not the franchise mexican food garbage. This place sounds like my best option. I just hope the tamales are a lot more appetizing than they look in the photo you posted.