This may be the tastiest treat in summertime Sacramento, and it fits right in with our new, recession-era mission to identify places where you can eat well for modest prices.
Yolanda’s Tamales opened this year at the seasonal Farmer’s Market and tamale lovers were quick to respond.
Yolanda offers four varieties of steamed tamales – pork, chicken, veggie and chile-and-cheese – plus sodas, water, lemonade and ochota, a light, creamy rice-water beverage loaded with cinnamon and spice and served over ice. The tamales are $1.50 each, the drinks $1.00. That’s the whole menu, so there’s not a lot to memorize here. About six inches long and made of cornmeal, the stubby tamales are stuffed with a filling and steamed in cornhusks.
Somebody – Winston Churchill? – said you can judge people by what they’ll stand in line for. If that’s the case, there are a lot of tamale aficionados downtown. During our visit, 12 people were waiting in line to be served, and more joined the queue within moments. But the line moved speedily, partly because the steaming tamales are all ready to be served, partly because Yolanda and her two helper’s are lightning fast and partly because everyone is hungry and wants to get out of the heat.
Hunger here is obvious. The tamales’ aroma floats over the park, drawing in customers almost in spite of themselves. Yolanda’s long line is no Starbucks queue: No gossiping about work, money, affairs or Italian roast. Everyone here, lured by the steaming tortillas, is focused on the eats. Anyway, the line moves so fast there’s no time to gossip.
You can call in orders by phone for pickup, and that’s probably a good idea if you’ve got a big order to go. Fifteen tamales and a couple of quarts of lemonade will feed five for about $27 – not bad. By the way, lemonade is the real thing, made with fresh lemons, with big slices of lemon floating in the brew inside a big frosty jar.
Yolanda hasn’t been at the Farmer’s Market long, but she’s been doing tamales for years. That’s because she’s been a caterer in Sacramento specializing in, you guessed it, tamales. Her slogan: “Got tamales? We do tamales for any occasion.” In Spanish, that's “Hacemos tamales para cualquier tipo de fiesta.”
Her stand in the park is actually a caterer’s trailer – you can see the license plate when you stand in line –but it’s reminiscent of the Central Park push carts that offer hotdogs. Same simple design, same basic eats.
Four types of tamales are offered at the park stand, but for those who want catered service, there’s more available, such as the raisin/pineapple/coconut tamale.
Yolanda’s Mexican Tamales
Cesar Chavez Park, across from City Hall
Open: Wednesday, during the Farmer’s Market
Hours: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. (approx)
Tel: 916 613-1404