So I'm very picky about tamales. And while I've had edible tamales since I moved here from Texas, I've only had ONE that I loved.
Yes, I've dutifully run down every reputable recommendation. Yes, I've had Donna's Tamales - they're ok, but their masa sucks (its vegetarian)! Yes, I've met The Tamale Lady - yuck, talk about the Emperor Has No Clothes! Yes, I've been to Roosevelt's Tamale Parlor - ha, what a scam!
The one tamale that I loved was found on a Saturday morning at the SF Flower Market. Some guy was walking around with a bucket selling hot tamales. I bought some, just on general principle. By the time we finished one and realized they were amazing, the guy was gone. I haunted the market every Saturday for weeks, hoping to find him and get contact info. I never saw him again. I even did a survey of all SF Tamalerias that sell to vendors, but never found the source. booohooo!
So I continued using my standard source for tamales - La Michoacana Tamaleria at 704 Jefferson St in Oakland. They have basic, servicable pork tamales for $1 each. But they don't have any other kinds (no beef, no chicken, no green chile) and they're across the bridge, which is a total bummer.
A few months ago, I got a tip about a SF source for good tamales. I put it on my to do list. Then, Wednesday at lunch, I was running errands and realized it was the day to check out....All Star Tamales, a cart at the Wednesday Civic Center Farmers Market.
I don't know...maybe I've just been beaten down by 20 years of crappy tamales or maybe its just because its tamale season...but these are good tamales!
$2.50 each ($24 a dozen). They seem to have both classic and americanized tamales with beef, chicken, pork, veggie, bean fillings. They have red, green & mole tamales. On Wednesday, I had the "picadillo" which is a chipotle beef tamale - the masa was excellent; the filling good, plentiful, well-spiced but not spicy; the masa-to-filling ratio was just right. I immediately got four more flavors to go - I had the black bean & cheese tamale last night, it was nice. Tonight we'll try the three remaining flavors.
Next, I'll gorge myself on them to see if I still like them once I'm sated. Then I'll put them side by side with ones from our holiday tamalada.
At that point, I'll let you know if hell has in fact frozen over and there are good tamales available in San Francisco.
Note: All Star has several (4?) house salsas. They ranged from okay to good, but none were outstanding.