Mom Makes It Best

Lincoln Heights’ Mom’s Tamales wins awards for its unique tamales and its unique story

If you drive too fast, you may pass it. It's a hole in the wall in Lincoln Heights that has become a foodie's destination with a history that starts from the back of a car trunk.

Mom's Tamales has been operating at 3328 Pasadena Ave. since 2005, but it started four years earlier by Israel Briseño, selling his mother's inspired tamales from his car's trunk.

"I remember the first time I went off to sell tamales was on Feb. 11, 2001, out of the trunk of my 1979 Honda Prelude, and I remember I sold close to nothing," said Briseño. "Around that time it was raining pretty bad and nobody wanted to buy food from a wet tamalero."

Fast-forward four years and thousands of tamales later, Mom's Tamales was opened for business and dishing out more than traditional favorites, some with a twist.

"We wanted to do a different take on an old tradition," said Briseño.

Its spinach and cheese tamale has become a crowd favorite. It's among eight different types of tamales the restaurant serves.

"My mom's grandma is the one who created it, and it [recipe] kind of got passed down," said Karla Rodriguez, Briseño's sister.

It's the generational recipes with a twist that are the backbone of Mom's Tamales menu. Just take the most popular breakfast dish, the mole chilaquiles. It combines his family's original recipe of the tortilla, eggs, cheese, onion scramble and the twist of adding warm chili-poblano mole on top instead of ranchera salsa.

"It's warm, Mexican comfort food," said Briseño.

Since the beginning, the draw of foodies from all over is the restaurant's signature tamales. Ranging from roasted pork to sweet pineapple, the tamales satisfy all appetites.

"Everyone has their own touch, but ours seems to work," Rodriguez said. "Everybody says 'Oh they are better than my grandma's and mom's, but don't tell them.'"

Contact Us