The Mississippi Tamale Trail

Delta Fast Foods Tamales
This one of a kind diner in Cleveland County has been
serving up unique southern flair since the mid-90s.

In the Mississippi Delta, hot tamales are as much of a menu staple as catfish and pork BBQ.

It probably seems odd that one of Mexico’s most delicious cuisines ended up here in the river Delta, and there are actually various theories on how they got here. 

Most people believe that migrant Mexican farm workers brought tamales to the Delta when they came to work side-by-side with African Americans picking cotton. These folks say that tamales became a popular Mississippi cuisine in large part because their low-cost ingredients and relative ease of preparation made them an ideal cheap meal for field hands.

Still, others think tamales made their way to Mississippi when Spanish-American War soldiers traveled back home after the war’s end. Maybe nobody really knows how tamales got to the Delta. But after just one bite, you’ll stop asking questions and start giving thanks. 

Please visit www.tamaletrail.com  to learn more about the comprehensive project  conducted by Southern Foodways Alliance to learn more about the fascinating history of the Hot Tamale and the Mississippi Delta!

 

The Anatomy of Mississippi Delta Tamales

Over generations, Delta families have further developed and manipulated tamale recipes using local ingredients, giving them their own distinct Delta size, shape, texture and taste. 

And one thing is for sure: In the Delta, no two tamale recipes are ever the same. Most Delta tamale cooks have their own way of doing things, stuffing masa harina (cornmeal dough) full of their own special ingredients and spices. 

Some use pork, some beef, and others add chicken or turkey to the mix. Some tamales are fire-breathing spicy; others are sweet and mild. Some are wrapped in corn shucks: others use simple wax paper. 

Some Mississippi Delta tamales are smothered in gravy, others in hot sauce and ketchup, and some are moist only from the juicy innards. Some are served with saltines, others with chili and cheese. But no matter how they’re made, you’re sure to find a savory variation that pleases your pallet. 

From hidden country cafes and street side carts to authentic “wood-shed” dives and some of the most upscale restaurants in town, tamales are definitely a Mississippi Delta dining staple.

 

Stops along the Tamale Trail

If you’re looking for Delta hot tamales, you’ll find them along historic Highway 61 on the Tamale Trail. Travel the trail through the Delta and uncover the dozens of different tamale tastes at places where you’d least expect to find them on the menu. Here are just a few of the delicious stops you’ll find on this Mississippi River road trip:

 

Hicks World Famous Tamale - Clarksdale, MS - President Bill Clinton and NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt are just two of the “regulars” Hicks has seen in  over 40 years of rolling hot tamales. Of course, don’t discount the taste buds of hundreds of locals who dine here each week either. Hand-rolled in corn shucks and served with crackers and Tabasco, some proclaim Hick’s spicy flavor as the best of the Delta.

 

Doe’s Eat Place - Greenville,MS - One of the most well-known dining establishments in the Mississippi Delta (and the entire state, if not the entire South), Doe’s offers the true taste of the Delta with both amazing tamales and an authentic, true-to-its-roots setting. Made the same way since 1941, Doe’s famous beef hot tamales are wrapped in parchment paper and served with a bowl of chili, adding to their legendary flavor.
A waitress serving up Delta tamales

White Front Café - Rosedale, MS - The undisputed tamale king? You wouldn’t get an argument from most. To say the White Front Café (also known as Joe’s HotTamale Place) specializes in tamales really doesn’t do the place any justice. The fact is, you won’t find anything else but Delta tamales on the menu. By the dozen, by the half-dozen or by the bundle, these spicy, all-beef, cornhusk-wrapped beauties draw hungry visitors to this side-of-the-road white shack from hundreds of miles away.

 

Delta Fast Food - Cleveland, MS - Served sopping wet in a tasty, spicy broth and packed full of cornmeal and turkey and/or chicken, DeltaFast Food has been open since the mid-90’s but uses a family recipe generally unchanged for generations. Stop by this gas station-turned-restaurant for these delicious hand-rolled Delta delicacies.

 

Solly’s Hot Tamales - Vicksburg,MS - Serving Mississippi Delta tamales since 1939, Solly’s over 70 years of practice is evident in itsdelicious white cornmeal hot tamales. What began as a roadside push cart by Cuba native Henry Solly, Solly’s is today a well-established dining landmark in Vicksburg. Solly’s prides itself on escaping the blandness of other hot tamales with lots of beef and six different spices.

 

Learn more about the authentic flavors of the Delta at VisittheDelta.com.