When people talk of Mississippi Delta cuisine, tamales may not be one of the first to come to mind, however, this dish is a long-standing tradition in the state. Many restaurants serve up the spicy favorite to residents and visitors alike. The tamale’s enduring popularity led to the creation of the Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail which connects more than twenty restaurants offering classic delta-style tamales and contemporary variations, two of which are in Vicksburg.
Tamale Heritage in the Mississippi Delta
Though the history of the tamale is long and winding, originating in Mesoamerica around 8000 – 5000 BC, the Delta Tamale and its origins are unclear. Tamales from the Mississippi Delta are smaller than Latin-style tamales, are simmered instead of steamed, have a gritty texture from the use of corn meal instead of corn flour, have considerably more spice, and are usually served with the juice that is a byproduct of simmering.
Foodies and culinary historians claim the dish heralds back to Native American tribes with the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw all having variations of the dish. Some claim that Delta residents were first introduced to the dish during the Mexican American War, with American soldiers trying tamales during their service and carrying the recipe back to Vicksburg and the surrounding area. Others attribute the dish to Mexican migrants travelling north to work in Mississippi’s cotton fields. Here, the migrants could share recipes with African laborers, who would have used similar ingredients in their own cooking.
No matter where Delta tamales originated, their foothold in the Delta is here to stay. There’s even cross over with another Delta staple: the blues. Blues greats like Reverend Moses Mason recorded “Molly Man” in 1928 and Robert Johnson recorded “They’re Red Hot” in 1936.
Vicksburg Tamale Trail Locations
Although the city of Greenville has become the unofficial capital of the Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail, Vicksburg is well represented with several long-standing tamale restaurants in town. Be sure to bring your appetite when you visit:
- Solly’s Hot Tamales: After emigrating from Cuba, Henry Solly made his living with a pushcart loaded with piping-hot tamales in 1939. His recipe proved so popular that he was eventually able to open a storefront to sell his creations. Solly provided Vicksburg with delicious tamales until his death in 1992, when Solly’s Hot Tamales was taken over by family friends. Today, May Belle Hampton and her daughter Jewel continue to serve up hot tamales to the community.
- The Tamale Place: Don’t drive by too quickly, or you just might miss The Tamale Place. This small stand on South Frontage Rd serves orders to go, making it the ideal spot to grab lunch during a busy day. Guests can order tamales by the dozen, which are served fresh in the restaurant’s signature newspaper wrapping. While you’re there, try the Tamale burger and Frito pie.
- Divine Donuts: What? Tamales at a donut shop? It may seem unorthodox, but Divine Donuts also serves a tasty tamale. Stop in at any one of their three Vicksburg area locations to try them for yourself.
A Delicious Tradition
If you’re ready to sample some of the best tamales Mississippi has to offer (we swear we’re not biased), Vicksburg is an essential stop on the Mississippi Hot Tamale Trail.
Looking to try even more Southern dishes and Delta classics? Vicksburg is home to numerous dining options, so you can enjoy everything from soul food and barbecue to the catch of the day and flavors from around the world. To learn more about things to do during your next visit, request a visitors guide or contact Visit Vicksburg for help planning your trip.