CHICAGO — There are a lot of urban legends passed along the streets of Chicago, but perhaps none greater than the elusive man with the red cooler known as “The Tamale Guy.”
Week after week, Ukrainian Village business owners like Joe Glorioso of Joey G’s Mac n’ Cheese have customers asking if they’ve seen him.
“This is a tight neighborhood; always has been. We look out for and support each other,” Glorioso said.
Few know his name, and even fewer his cell number. The Tamale Guy operates like the snuffleupagus of street vendors.
Eleven years ago fans created a Facebook page called “The Tamale Guy” as well as a Twitter account, hoping to post news of the latest sighting.
“A lot of my patients know of him and tell me he has the best tamales in town,” said Dr. Yashar Ghoreshi, Advanced Health and Pain Center.
After the pandemic the sightings slowed to a crawl, and that’s when his Ukranian Village neighbors put out the call.
“You know he’s a neighborhood guy and I’m a neighborhood guy, so that’s what we like to do,” Glorioso said. Another neighbor started a GoFundMe page, and three months later nearly $35,000 had been donated.
“Unbelievable generosity, especially during a tough time,” Glorioso said.
Their generosity went on full display last week when the infamous red coolers unexpectedly showed up in a previously vacant storefront.
“He found a brick-and-mortar storefront! I know I’ll be there, along with the other businesses in this area to help him as much as possible,” Glorioso said.
While he declined to be interviewed, the Tamale Guy himself said he will be offering pork, chicken and cheese tamales at the new restaurant.