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The Tamale Guy Chronicles: Unveiling the Truth Behind Chicago’s Beloved Icon

The Truth About Chicago’s Famous Tamale Guy

Chicago’s nightlife scene has a local legend who has been pleasantly surprising members of the community for over two decades. Known as the Tamale Guy, Claudio Velez has been serving up delicious tamales to hungry bar patrons, clubbers and concert goers, earning him immense popularity and love from the Chicago nightlife community.

Origins of the Tamale Guy

Velez’s journey as the Tamale Guy began shortly after he immigrated from Acapulco, Mexico. Introduced to the local bar scene by his coworkers, he noticed that many bars didn’t have kitchens, leaving customers with limited food options. Inspired to fill this void, Velez began selling tamales in bars with the help of his friend Fernando. Unfortunately, Fernando’s involvement was cut short due to a car accident, but Velez persevered, working with his sister and children to make and deliver hundreds of tamales to hungry customers at various bars throughout the city.

Tamale guy during the pandemic

Like many food businesses, the Tamale Guy had to adapt during the pandemic. With bars closed, Velez began taking delivery orders by phone to ensure that his loyal customers could still enjoy his delicious tamales. He also worked with the West Loop Community Garden to sell his tamales at events organized by Moshe Tamssot and his community organization. Velez faced challenges, however, when the city sent him a cease-and-desist letter for selling food without a permit. Undeterred, he focused on finding access to a commercial kitchen and opened a restaurant with the help of a GoFundMe campaign.

Tamale Guy’s new home base

After overcoming the challenges of opening a restaurant, Claudio Velez found a new home at Lone Wolf Tavern in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. The tamale takeover at Lone Wolf is a residency that allows Velez to make his tamales in the tavern’s kitchen and provide customers with delicious food options. While working out of Lone Wolf, Velez still maintains his nomadic ways, delivering his tamales to other bars around the city, ensuring that his loyal fans can enjoy his culinary delights wherever they go.

A special beer inspired by the Tamale Guy

To honor the Tamale Guy and support his business during the pandemic, a local Chicago brewery, Solemn Oath Brewing, created a limited edition beer. The beer, called El Rey de Tomal Pale Ale, was inspired by Velez’s favorite paleta flavor and featured mango, strawberry and ancho chile. A portion of the proceeds from the beer sales went directly to Claudio Velez and his family, providing much-needed support during a difficult time.

The Bumpy Road to a Tamale Guy Restaurant

Velez’s dream of opening his own restaurant became a reality when Tamale Guy Chicago opened in partnership with restaurateurs Pierre and Kristen Vega. But the journey was not without its challenges. Velez faced a severe case of COVID-19, which resulted in hospitalization. Fortunately, he recovered and returned to the business, only to face a legal battle with the Vegas over his exclusion from the restaurant’s operations and profits. Despite the setbacks, Velez remains focused on working, supporting his family, and providing his beloved tamales to the community.

Bottom line

Chicago’s famous Tamale Guy, Claudio Velez, has captured the hearts and taste buds of the city’s nightlife community. From his humble beginnings selling tamales in bars to his current residency at Lone Wolf Tavern, Velez’s journey is a testament to his passion, hard work, and the love he has received from his loyal fans. As he continues to serve up his delicious tamales, the Tamale Guy remains a beloved figure in Chicago’s culinary scene, bringing joy and satisfaction to those seeking a late-night savory treat.


Who is the Tamale Guy?

The Tamale Guy is Claudio Velez, a popular figure in Chicago’s nightlife scene known for serving delicious tamales to hungry patrons at bars, clubs and concerts.

How long has the Tamale Guy been serving tamales?

The Tamale Guy has been serving tamales for over two decades, surprising and delighting community members in need of a savory pick-me-up during their night out.

How did The Tamale Guy get started selling tamales?

Claudio Velez began selling tamales shortly after immigrating from Acapulco, Mexico. Inspired by the limited food options at bars, he began selling tamales with the help of his friend Fernando and eventually expanded his business with the support of his sister and children.

How did the Tamale Guy adapt during the pandemic?

During the pandemic, when bars were closed, The Tamale Guy shifted to taking delivery orders over the phone. He also worked with the West Loop Community Garden to sell tamales at events and focused on finding access to a commercial kitchen to open a restaurant.

Where can I get The Tamale Guy’s tamales now?

The Tamale Guy currently operates out of the Lone Wolf Tavern in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, where he has a residency to make tamales in the kitchen. He also continues to deliver his tamales to other bars around the city so that his fans can enjoy his culinary delights.

How can I support The Tamale Guy?

You can support the Tamale Guy by visiting the Lone Wolf Tavern and enjoying his tamales. You can also keep an eye on his nomadic movements and catch him at other bars around town. Supporting his restaurant and spreading the word about his delicious tamales is a great way to show your support.

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