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‘The Tamale Guy’ Restaurant Opens This Week In Ukrainian Village

“I am very excited, especially with everyone who helped make this dream possible. This has always been my dream," said Claudio Velez, the "Tamale Guy."

Kristin Vega (left to right), Pierre Vega and Claudio Velez at their tamale restaurant at 2018 W. Chicago Ave. in Ukrainian Village.
Hannah Alani / Block Club Chicago
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UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — Tamale fans, the wait is nearly over.

Claudio Velez, “The Tamale Guy,” will open his namesake restaurant Thursday in Ukrainian Village.

Located at 2018 W. Chicago Ave., the restaurant’s hours will be 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Walk-in orders will be accepted, but pre-ordering online is encouraged, Velez’s business partner and co-chef Pierre Vega said.

The website,, will go live Thursday, Vega said. Eater first reported the opening day news.

Velez, 55, got into the tamale business after moving to Chicago at age 28. He is originally from the Acapulco region of Mexico. 

For almost two decades, Velez has walked the streets and sold tamales out of his trademark red cooler, often selling to hungry bar patrons on the North Side. When bars shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Velez lost his income. 

RELATED: The Tamale Guy Is Opening A Ukrainian Village Restaurant

Velez tried switching his business model to home delivery, but city officials slapped him with a cease-and-desist letter in May, the Tribunereported. Chicagoans rallied to support Velez, raising more than $33,000 in a GoFundMe fundraiser

Velez was able to use the money toward creating his first brick and mortar business. The business will replace Whisk, a brunch spot that closed this year. 

“I am very excited, especially with everyone who helped make this dream possible,” Velez said in Spanish last month. “This has always been my dream.”

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