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Tamale Tastin’ in Mississippi

Between the mighty Mississippi and the Yazoo rivers lies 200 miles of hallowed ground: the Mississippi Delta. The Delta isn’t just rich farmland. Here, music, tradition and food transcend pastimes to become ways of life. Take, for instance, the humble hot tamale.

There are many stories about how the hot tamale came to be a Mississippi mainstay, but there’s no mistaking the snack’s huge significance in both Southern culture and African American history. The prevailing theory goes that in the early 20th century, as migrant workers from Latin America and African American laborers worked together in the cotton fields, cultures combined to create the Delta-style hot tamale.

These tamales are smaller than the Mexican version, typically more heavily spiced, made with cornmeal instead of masa, and boiled rather than steamed. From this simple portable, delectable foundation, families have developed heavily guarded recipes, points of pride and history. There’s no one way to do it, so if you’re curious, you’ll just have to try a few to find your favorite.

Tony’s Tamales
Ridgeland

Tony’s does one thing — and does it right — and the drive-thru retail spot in Ridgeland stands testament. This compact brick-and-mortar is just the right size to get the job done, no more, no less. Swing by to pick up a dozen (or two) of your favorite variety to enjoy at home. Or bring them to an event to achieve instant Party Hero status; choose from turkey or beef, hot, mild or black bean.

Fat Mama’s Tamales
Natchez

This local institution embodies fun and festivity, from their award-winning tamales to their “Fire & Ice” sweet heat pickles. If you’re feeling really festive, pair your favorite tamales by the half-dozen with a famous “Knock-You-Naked” margarita. Whatever your speed, Mama says come and eat. In this warm and colorful place, you can’t help but leave your worries behind.

Doe’s Eat Place
Greenville

Named by the James Beard Foundation as one of America’s Classics and winner of numerous culinary awards, Doe’s Eat Palace has been hailed as one of America’s best steakhouses. Still, Doe’s has stuck to its roots, remaining welcoming, unfussy and unpretentious. Tamales, steak and a side salad make the classic Doe’s meal — the all-beef tamales have been made the exact same way since 1941.

Hicks’ World Famous Tamales
Clarksdale

Eugene Hicks, Sr. is a local legend, a man with a dream to feed his community. He began serving tamales from Hicks’ Superette in 1973, using a recipe given to him by a street vendor named Acy Ware. Over the years, he perfected his own secret recipe and expanded to the current restaurant and banquet hall, though he’s never committed his recipe to paper. Come for a quintessential Southern meal, served like you’re part of the family.

Abe’s Bar-B-Q
Clarksdale

You know the famous tale of Robert Johnson and his legendary deal — how he reached the crossroads of U.S. 49 & 61 and sold his soul to the devil to play the blues? Well, the devil wasn’t the only thing at that crossroads. Abe’s Bar-B-Q, formerly the Bungalow-Inn, once had its home there, too. Though it now resides in downtown Clarksdale, you can still feast on their hot tamales, in bundles of three served with crackers and slaw. Lucky for you, it’ll only cost you $4.99.

Solly’s Hot Tamales
Vicksburg

Serving the kind of comfort food you dream of on ballpark summer afternoons and cold autumn evenings alike — beef tamales, hot dogs, chili, burgers, nachos, fries — Solly’s just wants to keep you fed. The owners still serve their friend Henry Solly’s original tamale recipe from 1939, as well as their own creative twist in the form of the “Fiesta,” a tamale-inspired taco salad.

The Tamale Place
Vicksburg

Where do you want to grab dinner? You know, The Tamale Place! The name says it all—and with high praise from USA Today and Mississippi Magazine, you know it doesn’t have anything more to prove. With a shared Solly connection, owner Allen Brown is Henry Solly’s grandson, the Tamale Place’s special blend of chili, cornmeal mixture and meat comes out well-seasoned, moist and, above all, delicious.

Hot Tamale Heaven
Greenville

Greenville is the self-proclaimed Hot Tamale Capital of the World, and you won’t find too many folks arguing. Among the many fine eats in Greenville you’ll find Hot Tamale Heaven, which won first place in the 2013 Tamale Fest. All beef, loaded with herbs and spices, and wrapped in real corn shucks, these tamales are served in a low-key style but are high-key fantastic, “a taste of heaven before you get there.”

Tamale Trailblazers

The hot tamale is an elemental part of the Mississippi Delta’s history and culture. If you’re ready for a true-blue Delta experience, these lovingly crafted, traditional treats have been handed down through generations for you. Start mapping your trail through the best the region has to offer at VisitMississippi.org.