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Mexican find - The Tamale Shop in Fresno

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Mexican find - The Tamale Shop in Fresno

PolarBear | Nov 20, 2005 01:10 PM

It's actually been around about a year but I was just recently turned on to The Tamale Shop at the SE corner of Shaw and Van Ness Extension. Don't let the name fool you, Chef Paul takes his other dishes to the same level of his fantastic and unique tamales. He offers beef, pork, and a chicken w/green chile on a regular basis and often a vegetarian style, though I haven't tried the latter. The tamales are at least twice the size of what we are used to seeing and the masa is moist almost to the point of being creamy in texture. They're also pricier, iirc I got three ala carte for @ $10 so I could sample them all and could only eat half of each. The lunch menu sports a tamale on rice with cheese and mole sauce for 3.59.

Chef Paul's red mole sauce is the real thing, and available by the pint for 2.50. The chicken mole (7.99) dinner is a great deal. I've also had the chile verde dinner (8.49) and liked the flavor but the pork cubes, while tender, were on the small side. Lady PB thought there was some seasoning in it not to her liking.

On the rec of a fellow hound I ordered a carne asada taco and asked for it spicy, great soft corn tortillas, a little larger than the traditional, with fresh cabbage and again with at least twice the filling. Excellent flavor, especially after adding a little more of the house made hot sauce. On a subsequent visit asked Chef Paul for a carnitas taco the same way which he happily put together. Tacos were 2.49, fish tacos (also tasty) are 2.99. Two are quite filling on their own for lunch, btw.

Another popular lunch item is the burrito (5.49 for carne asada, 5.99 for chile verde or carnitas) described on the menu as "enormous". At our staff meeting here last week two of our fellows with large appetites were betting $5 on who could finish it, one got half way through, the other only about a third.

One of my favorites is the chile relleno, a giant chile very lightly battered, full of melted cheese, and smothered with that great red mole sauce. It is offered as a special in a burrito (@ 5.50) for customers on the run but also available as a side order (@ 3.50?). One of these and a taco, half quesadilla or other split order makes for a very filling lunch.

Other notable items are the quesadillas with any of the meats but for a real treat try the portabella mushroom one. The flavor is simply amazing, Chef Paul also offers a portabella burger, which we've yet to try. The housemade guacamole is well done and the chips are fresh. We tried a raisin and nut tamale once for dessert but didn't care for it, finding it on the dry side (which the optional ice cream might have helped) but also too much cinnamon for my taste. The apple, walnut, caramel pie OTOH is decadent (3.25) and the added ice cream for 50 cents just puts it over the top. During the summer months TTS gets it's ice cream from the Superior Dairy in Hanford.

Corona, Tecate and Dos XX (lt or dk) are the only imported beers (3.50), three wines most likely from a box at the same price, but there is a housemade sangria for 4.00.

I asked Chef Paul how he would describe his cuisine, if it was specific to a region of Mexico. He said he would probably have to classify it as southwestern since his father was from Texas and his mother from Arizona, where he grew up and he was recreating and improvising on the dishes his family was raised on. He said he doesn't really use any exotic spices or ingredients, just the traditional chiles and locally fresh items.

Chef Paul is truly a gem and welcome addition to our local dining scene. On the walls of his small space are two large thank you cards from local elementary schools where he participated in a multi-cultural day and in a health and wellness day, teaching the children to make flour tortillas. The restaurant is open Mon-Sat for lunch and Wed-Sat for dinner. On Mon-Tues evenings he teaches cooking classes in his kitchen through the Fresno Adult School.

Hopefully other hounds will like this place as much as we do and get the word out and keep this treasure going. Look forward to your comments.

The Tamale Shop
2225 W. Shaw #104
Picadilly Square, SE Van Ness & Shaw
559-222-2718
Mon-Sat 11 am - 2 pm
Wed - Sat 5 pm - 8 pm
Closed Sunday

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