Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hot Tamale! Alica's Tamales Los Mayas Debuts at Justin Herman Plaza

For the past few months it seems that Alicia Villanueva has been popping up everywhere around the city to introduce folks to her delicious Mexican tamales, but Tuesday marked her official grand opening at Justin Herman Plaza. Now fans of Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas can find Villanueava serving up tamales from her brand new cart Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Villaneuva, a veteran of La Cocina's incubator program, has come a long way since she was selling her tamales door-to-door in Oakland. She joined La Cocina over a year ago and since then has been learning the skills that have helped turn her dream of introducing people to her tamales into a reality. Equipped with a donated food cart from Metal Gourmet, inspiration from both her mother and grandmother's secret recipes and some mad skills at making tamales, she is sure to be hit now that she has her permanent home. 

I have been a fan of Alica's tamales ever since I met her and first tried them a few months ago, and I was eager to see her grand opening reception on Tuesday. Yes, her food is great, but really it's Alicia's warm personality and genuine friendliness that shines right alongside her cuisine. Smiling and chatting with the crowds of customers and press that surrounded her white and green cart, it was clear just by looking that Villanueva was a woman doing something that she truly loved.

Her menu on Tuesday consisted of three tamales: chicken, cheese and pork. I had actually intended on getting all three, but I got to Justin Herman Plaza a bit too late, and the only option left was cheese. The chicken and pork were sold-out, and Alicia was in process of cooking some more. Intending to wait, I took only one cheese tamale and found a spot to sit near her cart. I was so excited and hungry to dig in that I even forgot to snap a photo first!

The cheese tamale was even better than I remember it being the first time I tried it. The cheese was gooey and salty, the peppers gave it a kick and the corn was fresh and moist. On top was a freshly made salsa verde that neatly pulled it all together.

I probably should have ordered my other two tamales when I received my first, because when I finally went back after finishing my cheese tamale I missed the next round, too! I was a bit disappointed (and still hungry), but I hope at least that they went to someone who had never tried them before. I couldn't stick around to wait until the next tamales were cooked, but I was glad to see such a positive turnout for Alicia's first official day.

Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas (@aliciatamales)

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