Everyone in L.A. (and most of the rest of California for that matter) knows that the best tamales come from the kitchens of Mexican grandmothers, and get sold on the streets from carts or trucks. If you’re not a local and don’t feel able to find the best little sidewalk tamale cart, your best option is Mama’s Hot Tamales Café (2124 W. Seventh St., 213/487-7474, www.iurd.org/mamasHotTamales, Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–3:30 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–3:30 p.m., $6–10).
You’ll even get a little social justice with your lunch, as Mama’s operates as a training ground for “informal” food purveyors to develop the skills they need to become higher-paid employees of the formal food service world. Open pretty much for lunch only, Mama’s serves salads, appetizers, burritos, tostadas, and other simple Latin American dishes. But if you know what’s right, you’ll order the house namesake: a homemade tamale.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition