Hot Damn, Tamales! in Fort Worth offers the tastiest gourmet tamales around, made with love by the Stavron family
Hot Damn, Tamales! of Fort Worth serves good luck. Like eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day, eating tamales during the Christmas season is said to bring good fortune for the year to come.
Of course, Ione Stavron, proprietress of the little tamale shop with a national clientele, thinks that it is good luck to eat her nine varieties of gourmet tamales and three kinds of dessert tamales year-round. "Our busiest season is between Thanksgiving and Christmas," she says, "but tamales are good anytime."
The corn-husk-wrapped finger food provides a quick snack or a hearty meal that can be heated in a microwave, steamed, or boiled in a bag. If not for their labor-intensive preparation, tamales might have replaced the sandwich as a lunchtime favorite years ago. Without a large family to share in the chore of cooking the filling, preparing the masa, and wrapping it all in a corn husk, most of us prefer to buy our tamales off the grocery-store shelf.
In 1996, Ione Stavron's daughter Angele decided that not only could she make tamales available to the masses, but that she could spice up the traditional recipes. While a student at the University of Texas at Austin and a local musician, Angele began selling her Hot Damn, Tamales! to Austin-area grocery stores to rave reviews.
"Her father gave Angele a tamale machine for Christmas one year," Stavron says. About five years later she pulled it out of the closet and began experimenting with different fillings. The black bean with Oaxacan cheese tamale was her first commercial success, and it is still a big seller, Stavron says.
Using vegetable shortening instead of lard, Angele Stavron offered Central Texas tamale lovers such nontraditional flavors as smoked chicken poblano, wild mushroom and Texas goat cheese, and ancho pork. Vegetarians could also enjoy red pepper, carrot and serrano, or fresh corn poblano versions. The offerings were worthy of recognition in the Chronicle's 1998 "Best of Austin" as the Best Gourmet Tamales.
A year later, Angele relocated to Fort Worth where her mother helped her operate a gourmet Tex-Mex restaurant at various locations around the city. "This is home," Stavron says of her daughter's return to Cowtown, where Angele grew up. The opportunities to expand the business led to a thriving business on the Internet.
"We get orders from all over the U.S.," Stavron says. "We probably ship more to the East Coast from Maine to Florida, with California a close second." Orders also come from as far away as Hawaii.
Not too long ago, a couple driving from New Jersey to Arizona made a detour to Fort Worth just to buy an ice chest full of Hot Damn, Tamales! "It's interesting to hear how far people come just to pick up a package of tamales," Stavron says with a laugh.
The business focuses mainly on the Internet business these days. Angele has moved to the Washington, D.C., area, where she is enjoying being a housewife, Stavron says. "I think she was kind of surprised that her hobby really took off," she says. "But she knew she had a good product."
If you want lunch at Hot Damn, Tamales! you had better get there early. The four tables fill up fast during the lunch hour. The tamal plate, with three tamales of your choice, a large serving of black beans, rice, and a terrific salsa, is the best item on the limited menu. Don't forget to pick up a half-dozen or so to put in your freezer for later.
Hot Damn, Tamales! is south of downtown Fort Worth at the corner of Magnolia and Hemphill streets at 713 W. Magnolia. Hot food is served or frozen tamales can be obtained Monday through Friday, 10am to 5pm, Saturday, 10am to 3pm, and Sunday (in December only) 11am to 3pm. For information call 817/926-9909.
Tamales can also be shipped anywhere in the U.S. and will arrive the next day frozen in a reusable container if ordered by 2pm. For a list of flavors or to place an order call 888/385-0125 or visit their Web site at www.hotdamntamales.com.
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