Excellent | Worth a Detour
Review by: Maggie Rosenberg & Trevor Hagstrom
Historical Mississippi Delta Tamales
Solly’s Tamales exemplifies “hole-in-the-wall.” Bars protect the windows on the old brick building. And yet, when you walk inside, you feel the warmth of a country cafe. Articles on the wall tell the history of Henry Solly’s tamales. The shack has evolved from a stand that started servicing Vicksburg in 1939. Solly, like many, began with a pushcart. He then built a restaurant based on the popularity of the tamales he sold from it. When Solly passed away, the restaurant went to Jewel McCain. She’s operated it using his recipes for more than the last decade. The recipes are American treasures.
Solly’s Tamales Are Unique
Mr. Solly’s Vicksburg-style tamales differ from wetter ones found through much of the Delta. They are neater, denser, meatier, and drier: tiny logs, full of flavor even zestier than most Mexican tamales. From these dry, beefy tamales to the strangely spiced sauce-less ground beef known as “Solly’s chili,” everything served here has unique character. In fact, when you order simply “chili” you get the same meat that goes into the tamales, just prepared as a loose meat.
You can eat tamales here on crackers as they do farther north towards Memphis. We prefer them dressed up. Consider a meal called The Fiesta. For this, you get two tamales smothered in beans, Solly’s unusual “chili,” waxy shredded cheddar, sour cream, tomato salsa, and pickled jalapeños. The heaping pile comes with tortilla chips so you can make your own tamale nachos.
The chili helps fill out various dishes that are not tamales, such as burritos. Both chili and a tamale come in a “Tamale Burrito.” The burrito configuration makes it a good hand-held option to take on the road. The Tamale Burrito in fact offers the least messy way possible to eat tamales in the car.
Even if you don’t like tamales, stop in for fabulous candy. Solly taught Jewel how to make pralines. They’re known across the South, the recipe used by several famous confectioners. Copper patties of soft caramelized sugar and rich pecans dance in perfect harmony.
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