The holidays may be over, but the tamale tradition lingers on at, of all places, James Coney Island (JCI), the homegrown purveyor of hotdogs (“coneys”) and other chili-and-cheese-based treats.
JCI is a true Houston mainstay. Founded in 1923, by Greek immigrant brothers TOM and JAMES PAPADAKIS, the restaurant chain we know today was started with just the $75 they had in their pockets as they arrived in Houston. A flip of a coin decided whose name would grace the sign of the business, and James won the toss. The first James Coney Island opened on the ground floor of the Beatty-West Building at the corner of Walker and Main in downtown Houston. Today, there are 20 locations throughout the Houston area.
The menu now includes much more than the coneys they started with (and the chili recipe remains the 1923 origi- nal). Introduced in December, and staying on the menu through the end of February at least, is the new JCI TAMALE DOG, which fuses a traditional tamale of corn masa with a six-ounce kielbasa sausage into a Tex-Mex-Czech delight. It’s topped with beef chili, shredded cheddar and minced onions. The price for this festive Frankendog? Just $5.99.
It’s a local production, too: The kielbasa comes from Slovacek Sausage in Snook, northwest of Houston, and the masa is locally sourced. The tamale dog is available at all JCI locations. Catch this dog before it gets away.