A good tamale can be hard to find. The tradition of making them isn’t being handed down through the generations as much as it used to be, says Elizabeth Plimmer, co-owner of The Tamale Co. “A lot of women in their 30s don’t know how to make tamales,” Plimmer says. When her dad Richard Plimmer’s catering business slowed in 2007, he wanted to start another venture making just one thing very well. One of his cooks gave him the idea. “He said, ‘Grandma is dying,’ ” Richard says. People want tamales, but they don’t want to make them. So Richard “made a lot of bad ones” before he found a recipe that worked. At first, he tried feta-and-arugula and other creative recipes. They tasted good, but traditional pork is what the people wanted. Now The Tamale Co. has five staples: ancho-chile pork, beef tenderloin, chicken tomatillo, cheese and jalapeño, and Southwest vegan. They’re packed in bags that serve as boiling pouches and are available in the freezers at Bolsa Mercado and about 30 other groceries in the Dallas area. The Plimmers also serve them with locally made Cita Salsa from their tamale cart at events from Oak Cliff Bastille Day to baby showers and birthdays. Elizabeth, 25, was raised in Oak Cliff and went to culinary school at El Centro. Her parents, who are from Chicago, had Vienna Beef hot dog carts in downtown Dallas in the ’80s. Later, Richard owned a couple of restaurants in Cleburne. “I wanted to learn everything about food and the restaurant business,” Elizabeth says. She interned at The Tamale Co. as part of her degree, and she never left. She came up with the branding and marketing plan, and father and daughter have a good creative relationship, they say. “Tamale TV” on their website offers recipe how-tos they produce themselves. They’re always coming up with new ways to market themselves, including T-shirts with slogans such as “tamale pusher.” Richard, with his thick mustache and straw hat, resembles the guy in their logo. People call him “the tamale guy,” Elizabeth says. But what really sells their product is the taste. Tamale Co. tamales are made with vegetable oil instead of lard, and the masa is fluffy, not greasy. They’re all gluten-free. The recipes are simple, Elizabeth says. “But we don’t skimp on the ingredients.” Along with the five staple tamales, the company also makes seasonal ones, such as pumpkin and apple-cinnamon. They’re also available from online delivery services Greenling and Artizone. “If you have a tamale emergency, you’re having a party and you need tamales, they can deliver it in 20 minutes,” Richard says.
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