New York City has a lot of great Mexican food. Burritos and tacos are widely available. If you are looking for a great torta, there is Zaragoza. Need a taco that will change your life? I recommend Dos Toros. But my favorite Mexican food is associated with special occasions, and is understandably a bit harder to find.
Tamales are mainly steamed masa. They can be filled with almost anything- chicken, pork, cheese, chiles- and are usually wrapped in a corn husk.
I sometimes have stumbled upon them at the Redhook Ballfields when I am looking for pupusas (that is a whole other entry). On Sunday, you can get a tamale on West 14th Street near Eighth Avenue- some vendors sell them on the sidewalk after a nearby Catholic church service ends. But I didn't know where to find a reliable tamale on a Tuesday night... until last week.
Paquito's on 3rd Avenue between 16th and 17th is a whole in the wall that makes a decent enchilada and offers a cactus burrito that my boyfriend loves. Thankfully they have just added tamales to their menu and having tasted them, I can confidently say I have found my new tamale home base.
I recommend the red chile chicken, which has a smoky sweet flavor. Two will fill you up- add a side of rice and beans and you will not need breakfast the next day.