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January 31, 2023

Cantina La Martina's to host competition among 10 street vendors to see who makes best tamales

The contest will be held Sunday, Feb. 5, in the restaurant's outdoor heated tent

Food & Drink Street Food
la tamalada.jpeg Provided image/Cantina La Martina

Cantina La Martina's upcoming "Tamalada" marks the end of the holiday season. Guests can sample tamales from several vendors and watch a tamale-making contest at 3 p.m.

James Beard Award-nominated chef and owner of Cantina La Martina, Dionicio Jimenez, will host a tamale-making contest on Sunday, Feb. 5, at the Kensington restaurant.

La Tamalada, which means the gathering of tamale making, is the first tamale-making event Cantina La Martina has ever hosted. Doors open at 11 a.m. and the tamale contest begins at 3 p.m. inside the restaurant's heated outdoor tent. Cantina La Martina is at 2800 D St.

Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish of masa, or dough, typically made of ground corn, that is filled with different meats, cheeses or vegetables. The dough is then wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf and steamed. 

Ten Latino street vendors from Philly will compete in the tamale-making contest. Admission is free, but bring cash to sample the contestants' dishes.

Among the judges will be Jennifer Zavala, the owner of Juana Tamale, and chef and podcaster Eli Kulp.

The vendor contestants will keep 100% of the their sales, and a portion of the brunch and dinner service sales inside Cantina La Martina with help support the nearby Conwell Middle School's journalism club to purchase software and iPads.

Jimenez said the event is also based on La Candelaria, a Mexican celebration that marks the closure to the holiday season. The holiday is typically celebrated on Feb. 2 in Mexico, which is exactly 40 days after Christmas.

"Our mission is to promote small Latino entrepreneurs in our community while celebrating La Candelaria," Jimenez said. "We decided to turn that event into a sizeable celebration, and we’re inviting the entire community to join us. We hope to see many new and familiar faces for our delicious Tamalada."

Jimenez opened Cantina La Martina in February 2022. The chef previously work at some of Marc Vetri's restaurants before starting his own. Earlier in January, Jimenez was named a semifinalist as Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic Region in the 2023 James Beard Foundation Awards.

La Tamalada

Sunday, Feb. 5
11 a.m. to 4 p.m. | Free to attend, pay as you go
Cantina La Martina
2800 D St., Philadelphia, PA 19134

NOTE: The content and headlines of this article were edited after it was originally published.