When it comes to checking off the list of things to experience here in the Lone Star State, it’s easy to see why food comes up so frequently. With so many cultures creating a rare culinary compilation, you never know what you’ll find. But when it comes to tamales, heading to the Valley is a safe bet.
If you find yourself a Delia’s, you’ll have a darn big dilemma on which tamales to taste.
“I’m so I’m just lucky that I have them here,” Ida Trejo said.
Delia’s is the destination to drive to when looking for a dozen of this delicious delicacy. This RGV institution opened back in 1998, but the story of Delia’s goes more than a decade back. Delia herself used to sell tamales door to door.
“I was selling tamales for fifteen years in my car, in my ice chest,” Delia Lubin said. “But I love my customers, because they help me a lot.”
It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Delia. After immigrating from Reynosa back in the early 80’s, she started a tamale business to help support her family. Five pounds of masa was all she had.
“Yes, I start Fridays, and sometimes Friday is not enough, and I go backwards,” Delia said. “I started on Thursday, and it wasn’t enough. Then I started on Wednesday … and I started Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays going by my customers. From eight o’clock in the morning to one o’clock in the afternoon I was selling tamales for breakfast and lunch.”
Slowly but surely, her tamales started becoming the talk of the town.
“I cannot say anyone closes the door for me. Everybody opened the door for me,” Delia said. “The day that I sold $500, I got on my phone and I called everybody, because it was $500. It’s too much for me.”
Today these tamales are so sought after in the Valley that Delia’s has six locations all within 15 miles of each other.
“They’re very flavorful, very moist. Always consistent,” Albert Zepeda said.
Even the Governor of Texas knows about Delia’s! What makes these tamales so good? We can’t tell you because getting a look at the production line isn’t going to happen.
“The only thing is, there’s not too many secrets,” Delia said. “The only thing we can do is that we try to do the most we can fresh. We boil and we blend, and we put everything into the masa. It’s great. We try to do everything natural, maybe that’s why.”
Considering the population of the Rio Grande Valley is around 1.3 million, that’s about 13 tamales per person per year. Then again, Delia’s does ship all across the country.
“Whenever we go out of town, it’s always fifteen, twenty dozen, because everybody wants them,” Albert said.
“I know my customers, they come with a long list,” Delia said. “We have to do in each bag whatever they want, we name it, we put the number or whatever, and they take the large tamales. Everywhere … Houston, Dallas, San Antonio.”
Delia credits her faith, hard work, family and employees for helping her get Delia’s where it is today. Expansion into other Texas towns is in the works. Where the tamale trade takes this truly remarkable venture, only time will tell. It’s all thanks to the hard work of a mother who did whatever it took to support her family.
“Fantastic to see that somebody that struggled to make it actually made it and is very successful, and it’s an inspiration to a lot of us to never give up,” Albert said. “You’ve gotta keep trying, and no matter what humble beginnings, you can still make it if you try.”