The Tamale Guy will now operate out of Bangers & Lace on Division Street.
Last month Claudio Velez aka The Tamale Guy began a new brick and mortar venture taking on the mantle of feeding Lone Wolf Tavern’s customers after a previous partnership with the co-owners of his Ukrainian Village restaurant known as Tamale Guy Chicago had soured. Complete with a new website titled The Authentic Tamale Guy, Velez had agreed to take over food operations at the popular neighborhood for at least 6 months.
Now Velez is moving again just a month after beginning at Lone Wolf, albeit this time amicably. In order to be closer to his loyal customer base and work with a bigger kitchen, The Tamale Guy will now be operating out of the rustic-chic tavern Bangers & Lace on W Division Street in Wicker Park. From now, for the foreseeable future Velez’s treasured traditional tamales including pork, chicken, and queso con rajas, can be enjoyed at Bangers & Lace.
For those who had welcomed The Tamale Guy’s new partnership with West Loop’s Lone Wolf Kitchen, worry not – they will continue to sell tamales for the rest of 2021 as previously planned.
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 after over 20 years as “Santa Claus for the drunk and hungry” a ‘Tamale Tracker’ Twitter page was even set up to “keep fellow Chicagoans up on the tamale action.”
— Andrew Suprenant (@suprenant) June 1, 2017
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.
2020 tried to take out the Tamale Guy with Covid. He survived on a ventilator and the hospital bankrupted him over 20k…
Within 12 hours Chicago kicked in bar door yelling "TAMALES!" pic.twitter.com/Q0tpQ0Hzb2
— Carlos (@CarlosCrits) August 30, 2020
Then in March of 2021 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 began The Authentic Tamale Guy as another chance to do what Velez loves doing best within the commercial kitchen space provided by Lone Wolf.
Moving closer to his customer base and making things easier for his family, Velez now plans to remain at Bangers & Lace until at least the end of the year and then hopes to eventually open his own restaurant.
[Featured image from Tamaleguy.com]