A prep cook spreads fat portions of masa onto cornhusks on the production line at Tia Dora’s. The next woman places a sliced jalapeño and a block of white cheese inside and folds it up. Still another cook wraps the whole thing in tin foil and lays it on a sheet pan. They do this all day long.
It is no wonder there are so many who consider Tia Dora’s the best non-homemade tamales money can buy. They’re steamed for three hours, and the masa comes out fluffy and not too oily. Fillings of pork, chicken, beef, beans or jalapeño/cheese are plentiful and perfectly balanced.
Tamales are only part of what Tia Dora’s does. The bakery produces fresh pan dulces every day, and the pastries often sell out by closing time, says manager Juana Pineda.
The kitchen serves breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The menu includes chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, barbacoa, taco plates, big burritos and Tex-Mex plates. The bakery is open until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 7 p.m. Sunday.
If you want to have tamales from Tia Dora’s on Christmas, start dialing the number. Even in the offseason, the restaurant produces about 2,400 tamales a day. During the holidays, they increase production by almost double, and they still sell out.
Tia Dora’s Bakery & Café
2478 W. Illinois at Hampton
bakery, counter service
Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m.;
Sunday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
3 more spots for tasty tamales
Tienda Santa Rosa
This hole-in-the-wall Salvadoran restaurant has a big presence in Oak Cliff, with locations on West Davis and the Hampton/Clarendon area. Order holiday tamales in advance, as they will sell out.
521 W. Davis
Tamales are not normally on El Padrino’s menu, but they turn out pork, beef and chicken tamales by the dozens during the holidays.
408 W. Jefferson
The Tamale Co.
This Oak Cliff-based company offers traditional and gourmet tamales, including vegetarian and vegan options, for about $14 per dozen. Find them at Cox Farms, Ann’s Health Food Center, Bolsa Mercado and other retailers.