the spot: Rosie’s Tamale House 13436 State Hwy 71, Austin, TX 78738
the eats: Tamales by the dozen
the bucks: $17 a dozen
the full nelson: Pork tamales only, first come, first serve
. . . but first some much needed context. Tamale prices just might the best indicator of inflation and gentrification these days. When a staple Cheap Eat like tamales become a questionable luxury, one might resort to desperate measures. I seriously considered driving down to San Antonio to get a couple dozen tamales from Delia’s. But I stalled on the idea. I had been staking out a Home Depot parking lot based off a tip from Reddit but I kept missing this well reputed tamale lady. Just when I almost gave in and ordered a dozen for $35 from a local bbq joint(I was skeptical but desperate) the Gods shined a light here:
. . . is a cooler full of tamales. Rosie’s Tamale House is 15 miles west of downtown but on a map it looks like you have taken a drive out to the country. Located off Highway 71, a trip to Rosie’s Tamale House is like mini road trip that also feels like a bit of a timewarp. The TexMex classic eatery wins you over with a dining room straight of the 1970s with linoleum floors and furnishings to match. I wouldn’t mind having a meal here but I had tamales to bring home for Christmas Eve dinner.
Because I had to try one first. These tamales are on the skinnier side but the ratio of meat to masa was adequate. Speaking of meat, at Rosie’s Tamale House you have one choice: pork. Oh and you can’t reserve any either, it is first come first serve. I picked up some red and green salsa too, the latter which was made from serranos was about as spicy as you might think it would be.
I quite liked these tamales for two reasons: the price and the masa. The price is obvious. At $17 a dozen, I spent half what I could have. That being said, it wasn’t all just dollars and cents that made sense to me. The masa was buttery, most likely due to a good amount of lard mixed. The serrano salsa hurt so good too. When it comes to rich foods like pork tamales, spice is always the right move.
I got two dozen plus two salsas and when the dust settled after tax and tip I walked out for under $50. Tamales in Austin have gotten pricier and while the competition might sweeten the pot with heirloom masa or smoked meats from an offset smoker, Rosie’s Tamale House is a joint that just feels right. Next year I’ll probably get a dozen from here and then either track down the Tamale lady at Home Depot or order Delia’s online. As long as there are people out there slinging tamales at working class prices, I’m gonna support the heck out of them.