The Tamale Guy debuted on Randolph Street Thursday, July 22, in partnership with Lone Wolf Tavern.
Yesterday was a big day for Claudio Velez aka The Tamale Guy after a whirlwind of a year. The local legend took on the mantle of feeding Lone Wolf Tavern’s customers at 806 W Randolph Street. Complete with a new website titled The Authentic Tamale Guy, Velez has agreed to take over food operations at the popular neighborhood for at least 6 months.
More of Velez’s magic will come to the West Loop with a menu featuring traditional tamales like pork, chicken, and queso con rajas. There are also dessert tamales and two weekend-only options in ‘Banana Leaf Tamales’ and ‘Oaxacan-Mole Tamales’.
Worry not, The Tamale Guy isn’t to be reserved to the confines of one place for good. He will also be back to his usual role of “Santa Claus for the drunk and hungry” seeking out bars in local neighborhoods.
Before Covid-19 wreaked havoc across the globe, if you were out late at the bars in Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town, or Logan Square, properly buzzed and undernourished, there’s no face you would’ve loved to have seen more than Claudio Velez.
Velez was a fixture on the scene, and a welcome sight for sore eyes, and hungry bellies. Those nights, in the doldrums caused by the gradual realization that a hangover was imminent, the Tamale Guy would come to your rescue with a 6-pack of tamales and put your mind and hunger at ease.
Many Chicagoans considered an encounter with Velez to be a sign of good luck and his popularity was such that a ‘Tamale Tracker’ Twitter page was even set up to “keep fellow Chicagoans up on the tamale action.”
When Covid-19 emerged, Velez had to adjust his business and began making home deliveries, only to get hit with a cease-and-desist from the city. What followed was an outpouring of support via a GoFundMe page which, within a month, fulfilled Velez’s lifelong dream of owning his own brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Ukrainian Village.
That wasn’t the happy ending we all expected, however. After completely selling out of food on the August opening day Velez was soon put in an ICU unit with Covid-19 and the city again came together in support.
Then in March Velez fell out with co-owners Pierre and Kristin Vega and filed a lawsuit against them for scheming to freeze him out and benefit from his popularity and recipes. Velez and his family members who worked there left the restaurant for good and now see The Authentic Tamale Guy as another chance to do what Velez loves doing best within the large commercial kitchen space that Lone Wolf provides.
[Featured image: @remeyrozin]