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Best Budget Bites: $3.50 Tamales From La Loma

Come hear the ballad of a spicy skyway legend.

Em Cassel|

La Loma’s pollo (top) and puerco, a match made in heaven.

The cost of things these days? Far too expensive! Inflation, supply chain, giddy price gouging from proprietors large and small—the boring factors are too numerous to count. To protect our readers, Racket launched the Best Budget Bites series, where we showcase toothsome, wallet-friendly food items that’ll actually fill you up. Have a nomination? Hit us up:

What: La Loma Tamales
Where: Cafeteria La Loma, inside Centro Mercado on Lake Street
Cost: $3.50-$3.60
Availability: 5:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Gather 'round, my brethren, and let me tell you a story of a wonderful festival we once called "Tamale Tuesday."

In the heady days of 2019, when office culture reigned, downtown Minneapolis was (relatively) bustling, and phrases like "work from home" had yet to enter our lexicon in any real way, Tuesdays were the day City Pages staffers dutifully filed into their cubes on the 11th floor of Capella Tower to sign off on the weekly print edition. This was consuming work, requiring our humble staffers to channel the eyes of the noble hawk. We wielded red pens like battle axes, spilling the blood of dangling participles and misplaced modifiers across the page.

Our meager reprieve came 'round lunch time, when, bellies grumbling with the hunger only a morning in a cubicle under fluorescent lights can bring about, we descended from the CP citadel and charted a course through the skyways to La Loma Tameles. There, every last tamal—from the luscious, savory chicken mole to the delightful sweet raisin, its interior as bright-red as our pens—was half off in celebration of this glorious alliterative occasion: Tamale Tuesday.

O! How we rejoiced, sinking our teeth into the soft masa and savory pork, procured at a pauper's price but fit for a king. Fortified, we'd march into the elevator back to our stronghold, ready to face the next round of civically minded pages in need of proofing.

Was it the last Tuesday of the month? The first one? Did La Loma somehow offer this deal every Tuesday? The mind fogs with the distance of time, casting Tamale Tuesday into the shadowier realms of memory. These days, City Pages is no more, along with—for now, at least—La Loma Tamales' downtown Minneapolis location. Racket's four staffers work from home; Tamale Tuesday is but a legend, lost to the ages.

There are those of us, though, who try to keep the spirit of Tamale Tuesday alive. We don our kerchiefs to fend off the encroaching cold, and journey to Mercado Central's Cafeteria La Loma—where the tamales, even "full" priced, are still a steal.

The just-so-spicy puerco ($3.60), with heat that dances across the tongue, its insides a tawny red, like desert clay. The pollo ($3.60), with tender shredded chicken commingling with a zesty green tomatillo sauce. Or the elote ($3.50), with sweet corn kernels like fireworks that burst under your teeth.

$15 for six tamales? A steal!Em Cassel

On harsher days—a day like today, even—you needn't make the long journey to Mercado Central. La Loma sells packs of six tamales, which, stored alongside the vittles in your freezer, are just $15, bringing the per-tamal price down to just $2.50. Available on Lake Street or at Everett's Foods (1833 E. 38th St.), they're delicious steamed on the stove or readied with just two minutes in that modern marvel the microwave.

Because it may be a Wednesday, or a Monday, or even a Thursday—Tamale Tuesday lives inside of our hearts.

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