Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail
“In the Delta, a tamale recipe is really like money in the bank,” said Amy Evans, oral historian for the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA).
When Joe Pope, known at the time as one of the most iconic tamale makers in the state, died in 2004, the SFA knew it was time to start collecting the stories of the makers of one of the region’s favorite foods while it could.
“I was going to do three interviews, but once I started doing the fieldwork, I ended up doing 25,” said Evans. “There were so many places to highlight, and most places are easy to access with a bus.”
Delta tamales, filled with beef or pork, are often referred to as red hots due to the color picked up during their unique cooking process. Unlike Latin American tamales, which are steamed, Delta tamales are boiled, often in a spicy mix of seasoned water flavored with cayenne.
For Latin Americans, tamales are a special-occasion food that is made by the females in all generations of a family while sitting together gossiping, and one of the best spots for seeing how the tradition has evolved is at Scott’s Hot Tamales. Originally opened by Elizabeth Scott, now in her 90s, the business has passed down to her daughters and granddaughters, who all make their brisket-filled tamales together.
During the third weekend in October, the city of Greenville, a larger river town that has the greatest concentration of tamale vendors, runs a hot tamale festival.
New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail
Centered on San Antonio, New Mexico
“The Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail was inspired by an episode of ‘Throwdown with Bobby Flay’ in 2009, which took place in San Antonio between the Owl Café, the Buckhorn Tavern and Bobby,” said Jolene Mauer, communications manager for the New Mexico Tourism Department.
After patrons and restaurant staff nominated hundreds of venues, a panel of culinary experts narrowed the list to the 97 green chile cheeseburger purveyors on the trail today.
“However, it is not a trail in that sense. It offers options in any direction when you travel in New Mexico,” Mauer said.
Though the trail is a recent innovation, the green chile cheeseburger dates back to 1945 and the Manhattan Project. Scientists involved in research out in the New Mexican desert used to stop in at the bar now known as the Owl Bar in San Antonio to talk about what would happen when they finally detonated their bomb. The proprietor’s son, Frank Chavez, started making cheeseburgers with chiles from nearby Hatch, Socorro and Magdalena to accompany their beers.
“Today, San Antonio is still the heart of New Mexico’s green chile cheeseburger dominance,” said Mauer. “The Owl Bar and Café and the Buckhorn Saloon are practically right across the street from one another.”
In Hatch, you can sample the green chile cheeseburger at Sparky’s BBQ and then visit the farms that grow the chiles that are roasted and chopped to flavor the state’s signature dish.
Fans of spicy food can time their visits to line up with the Hatch Chile Festival in late summer. Several locations on the trail have issues with bus access, so call ahead to confirm accessibility.