A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 27, 2008
Tamale Boat

A “tamale boat” is a tamale with chili, onions, and (sometimes) cheese. If served in a hot dog bun, it’s called a “mother-in-law sandwich.”

Although tamales are popular in the Southwest and chili is the official state dish of Texas, the “tamale boat” is a product of Chicago and is rarely found in the state of Texas. “Tamale Boat” is cited in print from at least the early 1990s.


Babe’s Jumbo Hot Dogs (Joliet, IL)
Tamale $1.29
Tamale Bun $1.49
Tamale Boat $1.59
Tamale Boat & Cheese $1.89

Peppo’s (Palos Hills, IL)
Tamale Boat $1.95
Tamale covered with Chili
Taco Boat $2.65
Chili, Doritos & Cheddar Cheese in a 12oz. cup
Fire Boat $2.65
Chili, Flamin’ Hot Doritos & Pepper Cheese and a side of Tabasco Sauce in a 12oz. cup

Rubi’s Frosty Freeze (Whittier, CA)
Tamale Boat $3.80
(tamale, beans, cheese, red chile and chips)

Chicago’s Best - Hot Dogs - Beefs - Sausages
TAMALE $2.25
TAMALE BOAT $3.50
Cheese, chili, onion

Sweet Home Chicago (Glendale, IL)
TAMALE - .99
A Supreme tamale right from Chicago. A Chicago tradition.
TAMALE BOAT - 2.19
A tamale smothered in chili, melted cheddar cheese and onions.

Mickey’s Taste of Chicago (Branson West, MO)
Tamale Boat
Two tamales with chili and onions $3.99

Cozzi Corner (Downers Grove, IL)
Tamale Boat $2.39
Tamale on a Bun $2.39

Mr. Beef and Gyros (Oswego, IL)
TAMALE BOAT 3.25
A Tamale smothered with chili, Cheddar cheese and onions.

Souzy’s Restaurant (Evergreen Park, IL)
TAMALES BY TOM-TOM
Tamale...1.99
Tamale covered with melted cheese...2.59
Tamale Boat (tamale covered with chili)...2.79
Tamale Boat with melted cheese over the top...3.09

1 July 1951, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Something Hot and Something Cool!” by Mary Meade, Grafic magazine, pg. G8:
LOOKING for a new fashion in foods? Then try these tamale “boats.” The boats are shaped from pastry, made with corn meal for an extra “south of the border” texture. Chili powder is added to the pastry for extra zest. 

1 July 1992, Chicago (IL) Daily Herald, section 5, pg. 4, col. 4 ad:
Tamale Boat
(Jr.’s Hot Dogs of Lisle—ed.)

10 November 1992, Chicago (IL) Daily Herald, section 5, pg. 3, col. 1 ad:
TAMALE BOAT
Tamale with Chili & Onions
(Jr.’s Hot Dogs of Lisle—ed.)

17 September 2000, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta bursts with flavor” by Robert Krug:
If a burrito doesn’t cut it, other unlikely pre-dawn items include pizza, a tamale boat, a footlong hot dog, breakfast calzones and subs, gyros, hoagies, ...

LTHForum: Leo’s Beef
Rene G
Posted: Wed Dec 07, 2005 7:06 pm
Thanks for the additional info. I think that presentation of the bunless Mother in Law used to be common before the Styrofoam cup took over. There are still a few places serving it that way and sometimes it’s called a Tamale Boat (or is that only a North Side term?).

yelp - Chicago, IL
Al’s 1 Italian Beef
169 W Ontario St
(between La Salle Dr & Wells St)
Chicago, IL 60610 (312) 943-3222
(...)
Matt H.
5 star rating
12/11/2007
I just want to put a word in for the tamale boat - two tamales smothered in chilli, topped with onions and cheese.  Delicious and good for upping the ante when your buddies are trying to out-meat each other. 

The Gear Page
Redhouse-Blues
01-03-2008, 09:54 PM
I love tamales the pork and the sweet strawberry ones and you can get them all over Chicago. But being from the Southside of Chicago I’d have to say Tom Tom Tamales. There’s nothing like them and you can only get them in Chicago. I can’t tell you what’s in them and I’m not sure any one really knows but get a chili tamale boat made with Tom Tom’s chili and a Chicago Dog and that’s heaven!

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Thursday, March 27, 2008 • Permalink