After Thanksgiving, my holiday diet mainly consists of tamales and pozole until a few days after the New Year. With that uptick being the case for a lot of us Mexis, Wienerschnitzel is wise to roll out its 'for a limited time only' Chili Cheese Tamales during the holiday season. Loving the signature brown and yellow goo the hot dog chain slathers on its offerings from fries to burgers (and having missed out on the chili cheese fries burrito) I just had to see for myself what these tamales were all about!
But for a quick fix, how does a stop at Wienerschnitzel size up?
For starters, don't take cues from the advertisements as there's no corn husks to unwrap here, just two cartons to pop open. Inside they reveal tiny tamales lathered with chili topped with shredded cheddar cheese, a tradition straight outta Chicago or 1950s Southern California, per Gustavo's book. As for taste, there's two simple things to look for in good tamales: the consistency of the masa and the ever important masa-to-filling ratio. On the first part, Wienerschnitzel actually does well.
Their tamales are fluffy and evened out. They don't fail in being big pata-sized atrocities made so rubbery they can be thrown and bounced off a nearby wall for kicks!
But it's on the second front where these chili cheese concoctions falter. The beef is tasty enough (though unforgivably not bathed in chile colorado) only there's not enough of it! It hasn't been since buying tamales from a fundraising collective years ago that I had been sold such the skinny on the filling! For two bucks a pop, the chain could literally beef up their limited time menu addition.
As for the topping of chili cheese? The glorious ooze can never go wrong! It does, however, make the tamales sit heavy on the stomach, much more so than splattering Tapatio hot sauce atop, so Wienerschnitzel's experiment is a one meal deal worth trying at least once.
Just make sure to order it at the drive thru in proper Chicano English and say, “two shili sheese tamales, plis!'
Gabriel San Roman is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and tallest Mexican in OC.