Tamale Cow visited 20 times and made 1,500 tamales on the first day

it was thursday night For Claudio Velez, who took five hours of sleep after reaching his 20s, while making the tamarind drops that have made him a favorite of Chicagoans for more than 20 years. Velez starts her workday in the morning with loud applause from customers sitting on lonely wolfThe 23-table sidewalk patio along Randolph Street. Velez and his family started their new operation, Authentic Tamale Guy, from the West Loop bar, and stayed at the bar later that night Rainbow Club, hideout inn, and Bucktown Pub.

The new agreement with Lone Wolf gives Velez a base of operations where it can do a hybrid business of serving its classic tamarind with corn bran and green salsa to customers at its home tavern, while the latter bar hop There is an option to. Lone Wolf’s first customer lined up at around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, and Velez says he and his family made 1,500 tambourines before selling.

Thursday felt like the old days for him as a Chicago nightlife legend, who fed hungry bar customers at taverns with no food service. On opening night, he mingled with customers, took selfies, and smiled with bartenders who hadn’t seen him before the pandemic. Velez hopes that this new partnership with Lone Wolf will work better for him than his Ukrainian Village restaurant. Falling in with those partners has left the lawsuit pending. Since one of those partners, Kristin Vega, was a longtime worker at Easy Bar, he has been living away from that Wicker Park location: “I don’t want to start any trouble,” says Velez, accompanied by his son, Osmar Abad. With translation from Cruz.

Claudio Velez is on Randolph Street.

A plate of tamarind in corn husks.

Zipped plastic bags and red coolers are still around, despite local change in Randolph Street.

Velez’s story is well chronicled by his rockstar status, trouble with the city due to West Loop complaints, and the opening of his first restaurant. He has got used to the attention and applause. he got another He was discharged in September as ovation From Rush University Medical Center after a 35-day stay for treatment for COVID-19. Abad Cruz reflected on how far his father had come, recalling seeing his father in the hospital, staring blankly into space with an illness affecting his breathing and senses.

“I just want to do him well,” Abad Cruz says. “He deserves it.”

Tamale Cow tested home delivery last year after COVID-19 bars closed and cut it from its customer base. While Velez says her dream is to eventually open another restaurant, what makes her go to Chicago’s bar is what benefits her. Over the years, part of the fun was the luck involved in randomly running into Velez once in a while. Tamale Boy’s instincts and path were unknown. Velez still won’t publicize its routes and it retains some enthusiasm for old-school fans. Delivery will eventually be made available in a week or two so people can plan their night around tamale.

Group of people sitting on picnic bench at night.

Tamale Guy is all about the fans.

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More fans and more photos.
Barry Crowbar / Eater Chicago

Velez says he plans to go another 20 times or so on Friday nights. She stopped drinking for a while, agreeing to start again with her son’s birthday at the end of August: “There are a lot of problems with alcohol,” he says.

Still, interacting with fans is his favorite pastime. After emigrating from Mexico, Velez has been distributing firearms around Chicago for more than 20 years. With the help of their son, they have been looking for a licensed kitchen space to make tamales since last year. They are connected to a Facebook group, True West Loop, who introduced him to the owners of Lone Wolf at Heusler Hospitality (Stereohandjob Queen MaryBut still there is a fear of fine. While delivering the tamales to the bar, Velez and his family cooked from their homes. Chicago’s Cottage Food Laws are restrictive, allowing very few foods to be made at home. Items such as jams and baked goods can only be sold at farmers markets. in other parts of the country, including the LA areaDuring the pandemic, cottage operations flourished. Though he’s kept all the recipes the same “it’s so different” while working at Lone Wolf: “We feel more secure and at peace because there’s a cooking license,” Velez says.

A masked man standing next to a tray of guns.

Claudio Velez inside his new kitchen.

On Thursday night, a customer gave Velez a $100 tip, and he says he can feel his fans’ love throughout the night. At 56, he says he’s determined to keep up the pace: “If I have the strength, I’ll go ahead and work it,” he says.

On Saturday night, a video crew from Vice Media will accompany him on his Tamale run. He has been popular in the media through TV and print interviews. Velez also says he plans to discard any leftover food at the end of the night and feed people living under Chicago’s bridges with no housing. He says he needs to give back to the community that has supported him.

“People, they care a lot,” Velez says.

authentic tamale cow, inside Lone Wolf, 806 W. Randolph Street, open Wednesday through Monday, from noon to midnight.

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