The Tamale Guy

The Tamale Guy
Photo Credit: Julia Aman

“Tamales! Tamales!”

Few things can quiet a bar more quickly than the entrance of Claudio, affectionately known to local imbibers as “The Tamale Guy.” He moves from bar to bar like some kind of missionary saint bestowing warm, delicious sober-up food upon the masses. Chicken, cheese or pork? It’s a simple question, one that after the forth or fifth cocktail many drinkers dream of having the chance to answer.

While what Claudio does isn’t exactly legal (food vending laws in Chicago are fairly strict, and in this writer’s opinion, fairly awful), there isn’t anyone complaining. As the story goes, Claudio’s wife prepares large batches of tamales with the three aforementioned ingredients, and each night he ventures out to the bars armed with coolers, napkins and cups of salsa. Five bucks gets you a bag of six tamales better than you’ll find in even the most amazing taquerias. They’re soft, moist and incredibly flavorful, offering a great taste experience regardless of how much or how little you’ve had to drink.

The Tamale Guy tends to work in the Wicker Park/Ukrainian Village neighborhoods, regularly hitting  Innertown, Rainbo, Gold Star, Club Foot, and The Empty Bottle, just to name a few. That being said, I’ve spotted him as far north as Ten Cat and been told that he is open to catering private events. I’ve never been host to a catered event, but the thought of having trays of fresh tamales laid out has me looking for an opportunity.

If you’re the type of person plagued by bad luck or the perpetual right-place-wrong-time-syndrome, technology is here to help. The Tamale Tracker twitter feed allows bar patrons to follow Claudio’s nightly travels. Just missed him at Rodan? Someone at Map Room just tweeted that he was on his way to The Gingerman. Better hurry.

Gene Wagendorf III

About Gene Wagendorf III

Gene is a writer who has spent his entire quarter century of life as a resident of Chicago. When not exploring the city he can be found wandering flea markets and garage sales or having a cigarette between classes at Northeastern Illinois University, where he hopes to acquire a degree in the next quarter century. His favorite smells are old books and bowling alleys. His poetry (how embarrassing!) can be found in issues of Kill Poet, Ditch, Word Riot, O Sweet Flowery Roses and Vowel Movements.

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