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Budget Pick: Yvolina’s Tamales Is Not for Traditionalists

With the owner’s atypical methods and ingredients, this Pilsen spot’s tamales offer some unique options.

Marcelina Hernandez (pictured) named her restaurant by combining her and her daughter Yvonney’s first names.   Photos: Jeff Marini

Yvolina’s is not a place for tamale traditionalists. For one thing, the tamales at this popular Pilsen storefront are steamed in banana leaves instead of corn husks to provide extra moisture. For another, their masa exterior is 100 percent vegan. Rather than mixing her masa with lard, owner Marcelina Hernandez uses olive oil, which imparts a lighter, airier texture and offsets the hearty, often vegan fillings, such as quinoa and lentils. (There are some meaty options, too, like chicken and pork.) The tamale options change daily—go à la carte ($5) or try the full dinner ($9). When we visited, we opted for a kale and pepper tamale, drenched in rich red mole, and served with a generous portion of achiote-and-tomato-seasoned rice.

814 W. 18th St.

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