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The tamale is not a great drive-and-eat food. But I was hungry and in a hurry when I spotted the tamale cart outside my home office/favorite coffee shop. I had actually noticed the cart a few times in passing, but had never thought to stop. This time, I did.

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Jose, the man behind the cart, doesn’t speak a ton of English, but we got by. He pointed out the menu on the window behind him.

Pork Beef Chicken Cheese & Chili Spinach & Cheese Pineapple Sweet Corn Coconut

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For $2 each.

Drinks are also $2.

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I ordered two chicken tamales. Jose put them in a plastic bag along with a tiny piece of fluff that was, I think, supposed to be a napkin. And off I went.

Turns out, the tamales were not chicken but chili and cheese. Normally, I would have been annoyed at the mistake, but the kick of the chilies was a pleasant surprise, and cheese is always at the top of my list.

The driving and eating thing was a problem, but the flavor of the tamales made it worth the hassle and the mess on my shirt.

Don Pepe’s Tamale cart stands at 4118 30th Street in North Park, between Celia’s Hair Fashions and Loc’s Tax Service from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Although there’s a sign in the window of the storefront, it’s not a restaurant inside. It’s where the tamales are made.

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Comments

Elizabeth Salaam March 15, 2012 @ 2:25 p.m.

The hours have now been changed from 9 am to 7 pm Monday through Thursday, and 9 am to 2 am Friday and Saturday.

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David Dodd March 15, 2012 @ 2:35 p.m.

Actually, tamales are great drive-and-eat food, it's just a little tricky to learn and I don't imagine the police would be very please to see you do it. At all border crossings, tamale vendors in Tijuana do quite well. Sounds like Jose has a good selection.

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Ian Pike March 15, 2012 @ 3:50 p.m.

Pineapple tamal from the linea = awesome sauce.

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David Dodd March 15, 2012 @ 4:07 p.m.

I know, right? It's funny because growing up in the U.S. you get an idea of what fast food is supposed to be, but here it's so completely different. Like tacos. That ain't fast food, you don't chow down on tacos in your car, it's either at the stand or at home. But tamales, oddly, are more versatile than one would think. If you eat them at home, then you can go from end to end, but in the car you eat them inside-out. I'm partial to either beef or pork myself, preferring red chili to green with tamales. But pineapple is good, too. Or as they call them here, dulce de piña.

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Ian Pike March 15, 2012 @ 6:38 p.m.

I really no longer enjoy eating on the run. Even when pressed for time, I try to sit and enjoy. I think not driving helps with that, since everywhere I go is within biking distance. That's a larger radius than one might expect, by the by. But still, even on the rare occasion that I go to In n Out or something, I kind of like to take it home and sit in a chair :D

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Elizabeth Salaam March 16, 2012 @ 6:49 a.m.

Hmm. Tricky, indeed. Can't quite imagine coming out of a tamale-while-driving experience with a clean shirt.

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David Dodd March 16, 2012 @ 4:29 p.m.

In a vehicle, you eat 'em inside-out. Take one of the two napkins they give you, make it a bib. Take the tamale, put it on your lap, using the plastic fork you eat it from the middle-out. No guarantees on the clothing, but practice makes perfect!

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Reader_reader March 16, 2012 @ 7:10 p.m.

Never understood why people like tamales....

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Tallsharon March 17, 2012 @ 8:57 a.m.

I love homemade tamales. If you've only had xlnt I'd understand- but omg I crave a good tamale!

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