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‘Tis the season to eat tamales in Sonoma County

Ricardo Ibarra
Written by Ricardo Ibarra

It’s official: tamale season has started. And right on time there’s a new — and old — player in the creation of the delightful product wrapped in sweaty corn husks: Tamale Factory.

The Nuñez family has been making tamales for five generations. Elva A. Nuñez’s grandparents opened their restaurant in Windsor during the 1960s, at a time when there were few Mexican food options.

Her family closed the storefront in 1993 but had such a cult following that they continued to make tamales for markets and special events. Her grandmother was involved in the business up until her passing in March of this year. “She was 93 years old and still making tamales,” said Nuñez. They would support her in selling the tamales at farmers’ markets.

After her death, she and her cousin Briana T. Lopez wanted to continue their grandparent’s legacy and decided to take the business on.

The Tamale Factory continues to use the traditional method of making tamales, with fresh masa (corn dough that is used to make tamales), that they grind and make themselves, a process which takes a few days. “You have to know the corn and how it will work into masa,” she elaborated. “Doing it the old-fashioned way, it’s a dying art.”

They currently sell their tamales at farmers’ markets in Petaluma, Healdsburg, Windsor and Santa Rosa. Their plant-based tamales can be purchased on their website the-tamale-factory.com.

Tamales Maná

Tamales Maná at Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa. Ricardo Ibarra / La Prensa Sonoma

Daily produced in Santa Rosa, Tamales Maná are made without lard and the flour is gluten free. “We don’t use anything that comes from a can, everything is done here. We cook everything, we even make our mole,” business owner Manuel Pérez said.

They have four locations for that seasonal tamale craving. In Santa Rosa: Old Courthouse, Monday through Friday, starting at 9 am until they’re done. 443 Dutton Ave, Monday through Saturday, from 5 am until they are also sold out, between 10 am and 12 pm. In their main place, where they cook, you can also eat them there, located at 1110 Petaluma Hill Road, Monday through Saturday. 6 am to 2 pm.

And in Windsor: inside Cocina Maná, 9238 Old Redwood Hwy, Ste. 128. Monday to Saturday, from 8 am to 3 pm. They have tamales in red sauce, chicken in mole and green sauce, beans with cheese and jalapeño with cheese. More information at tamalesmana.com.

Tamales Magos

Tamales Magos are along Sebastopol Road, soutwest of Santa Rosa. Ricardo Ibarra / La Prensa Sonoma

“They are very tasty,” Carmen Castillo of Tamales Magos told us. They make tamales with chicken in green sauce and red sauce. Pork in both sauces. Peppers with cheese, corn, strawberry with raisins. Chicken and pork in red sauce wrapped in banana leaf. Champurrado and arroz con leche.

“We put magic to our dough,” Castillo said about their tamales, which can be located every day “even if it’s raining or if it’s hot” next to the gas station located at 921 Sebastopol Road, in front of the Roseland Elementary School, from 5 am until they last.

They also take orders by phone: 707-543-6985.

Max Tamales

An order with 3 tamales made of pork and chicken in red and green sauce at Max Tamales in Sebastopol Road. Ricardo Ibarra/La Prensa Sonoma

From Mexico City, Maximino Salazar arrived in Santa Rosa to give Sonoma County residents the culinary legacy he learned from his father.

Salazar sells his tamales in two places in Santa Rosa. One on Sebastopol Road, next to El Favorito restaurant and another on Corby Ave, near Greenwood Drive. 6 am to noon “depends how the sale goess,” said Salazar. Open from Tuesday to Sunday.

They have chicken in green and red sauce, pork in both sauces. Rajas with cheese, beans with cheese, corn and raisins. They take orders on the phone: 707-393-8687.

And here is a map with other restaurants in Sonoma County that sale tamales:

[Spanish version]

La Prensa Sonoma intern Mayra Lopez contributed to this story. 

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Reach La Prensa Sonoma’s Editor Ricardo Ibarra at 707-526-8501 or email ricardo.ibarra@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ricardibarra.

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