The Northeast Mississippi Tamale Trail

It is no secret the Mississippi Delta is the tamale capital of the American South. The Mesoamerican delicacy has been a Magnolia State staple since at least 1936, when bluesman Robert Johnson recorded “They’re Red Hot,” referencing the spicy tamales served in the Delta’s restaurants and kitchens. The story of the tamale’s arrival is debatable. Some claim the Mexican-American War, while some believe they were brought to Mississippi by Mexican migrant workers in the early 20th century. Either way, you might be surprised to find that the tamales, in their many varieties, have made their way across the state and into places you might not expect, like pizza chains and donut shops.

Dilworth’s Tamales

Located at 702 Wick St. in Corinth, Dilworth’s has been serving tamales to the community since 1962. Like many Mississippi tamale vendors, Dilworth’s is take-out only with an iconic drive-thru window. Their signature thin tamales have made cross-country trips wrapped in aluminum foil. Patrons can order them mild or hot.

Dreamboat BBQ in on Sunflower Avenue in Clarksdale, Miss. on Thursday, March 13, 2014. Dreamboat BBQ is located in a building that used to serve ice cream and was shaped like a Mississippi River steamboat.

D-Shy’s Tamales

D-Shy’s is a food stand located in Fred’s parking lot at the corner of Harper and Shiloh roads in Corinth. While just miles away from their competitor, Dilworth’s, the tamales bear little resemblance. D-Shy’s are larger, wetter and wrapped in parchment paper. If you want them hot, be sure to call ahead. Like Dilworth’s, D-Shy’s tamales come in two variations: mild and hot.

Lost Pizza Co.

While it seems strange for a pizza place in Tupelo (1203 N. Gloster St.) to offer tamales on its menu, it’s important to note that Lost Pizza Co. was first opened in the Mississippi Delta, where tamales reign. They don’t outshine the pizza, but they certainly hold their own. Rumor has it they are transported to each franchise location from Cleveland, Mississippi, and then cooked on-site. They’re served with crackers and hot sauce, true to their roots.

Speedy Gonzales

Located at 1725 N. Gloster St. in Tupelo is a seemingly nondescript gas station. Slow down and you’ll see signs hanging above the gas pumps advertising “the best tamales in town” and a menu listing on the exterior of the building, complete with photos. Speedy Gonzales is a full-service taqueria with a few specialty items for purchase as well. On the menu, you’ll find quesadillas, gorditas, sopes, and of course, tamales. There are tables for dining-in, but most patrons carry out.

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Scarlet’s Donuts

Scarlet’s Donuts recently replaced Shipley Do-Nuts in Tupelo when owners David and Scarlet Wilson decided to leave the franchise her father first opened in Greenville in 1959. One of the reasons they renamed the joint was to keep offering tamales, which would be against the new corporate guidelines. Like Lost Pizza Co., Scarlet’s sources their tamales from the Delta. The first of the Scarlet’s locations opened at 1714 N. Gloster, directly across the street from Speedy Gonzales.

Taqueria Ferrus

One might expect to find tamales at a place like Taqueria Ferrus. Located in the Choice Pawn parking lot at 1141 W. Main St. in Tupelo, the stand has garnered quite a following for its authentic, freshly prepared Mexican cuisine. The tamales are no exception. They can be ordered two ways: rojos puerco (red pork) and verdes pollo (green chicken). Don’t forget to pair them with one of the three homemade salsas.

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