This week I visited a west side restaurant that has steadily grown in reputation since it first opened at the corner of Rockville Road and Lynhurst Drive about seven years ago – The Tamale Place. I found that, while the words in its title may not be the most imaginative in the world, the business takes the words “authentic” and “quality” seriously.
Owners Angela Green, her husband, Vladimir Ronces, and her mother, Leora Green, first opened the business in 2003, originally focusing strictly on homemade tortillas. Unfortunately, it struggled initially because it was too authentic; the business model of selling fresh tortillas daily is very successful in Mexico, but not so much in Indianapolis.
“The idea was to have a tortilleria like you find on every corner in Mexico,” says Angela Green. “But we found out that the Hispanic community doesn’t live the same way here that they do there.”
As time passed, they learned that there was an aspect of Mexican cuisine that did, however, seem to be missing from our city – quality tamales.
“People just came in asking for them,” recalls Green. “They couldn’t find any good ones around here.” They had an abundance of the main ingredient for the soft, cornbread-like shell of tamales – masa – from making tortillas, and they decided to expand their business. “We called Vladimir’s family in Acapulco, got some recipes, and we haven’t been able to keep up since.”
Today, they offer handmade tamales, tacos, chips and salsa in addition to the original tortillas. A unique aspect of The Tamale Place is how they sell food; they make a predetermined amount at the beginning of the day and write it on a board. If they make 30 mild chicken tamales and someone orders one, they erase the 30 and put 29. When they get to zero, they close.
The authentic food has become a hit with locals. “I’ve been coming once a week for years,” says customer Jason Beasley. “It has the best tamales that I have had in Indianapolis. My favorite is the spicy pork.”
Seeing as it’s called The Tamale Place, I figured it was a good idea to try a few tamales – mild beef, spicy chicken, and spicy pork. I would have to agree with Beasley that the pork was my favorite, but they all were good. As anyone who has read my reviews knows, I love hot food, and, in my opinion, hot Mexican-style cuisine may be the best. I was not the only one enjoying it. When I arrived, there was a line stretching nearly out of the door.
A simple name and a simple philosophy explain the success of this unique restaurant. “If you want to eat great Mexican food, you should come here,” says Green. Fair enough.
The Tamale Place, 5242 Rockville Rd. (317) 248-9771 thetamaleplace.com.
Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed