Eleanor Scott with the scoop on the return of the tamale tricycle to Knoxville streets:
At the Public House last Sunday, Matt Miller and Chris Watson, trend-setting members of Knoxville's culinary world, introduced Good Golly Tamale, their new business selling several varieties of tamales from the back of a vintage industrial tricycle.
Miller is known for preparing the Public House's food and condiments, such as the popular kimchi hot dog. Chris Watson works at the Tomato Head, and has a background in making and selling street food.
Miller, who grew up in Knoxville, has fond memories of eating tamales as a child. His mom and female relatives made tamales in the fall. They made them with corn meal and ground beef, rolled tightly in paper, and boiled.
"There were exactly two ways we ate them," says Miller.
On the first night, when the tamales were fresh, they ate them in a bowl with chili and crackers on top.
"That was called the 'full house'," he says.
The next day, they'd pop any left-over tamales in the microwave and eat them with mustard.
"I don't know if other people did that, but that's what my family did," Miller says.
Good Golly's tamales are different from Miller's childhood tamales. Instead of corn meal, they are made with masa, dried corn treated with lime. The fillings are all sourced from farmer's markets and Three Rivers Market Food Co-op. As much as possible, the ingredients are organic, local, and free-range.
After many meetings with health department officials, Miller was able to work out the regulations that made the food trike legal.
Miller says there are food truck laws, hot dog cart laws, and certified kitchen laws. He says no laws exist to regulate food trikes, but, really, the trike is only a vehicle for transportation.
The tamales are prepared in the Public House's certified kitchen, wrapped in foil, and not unwrapped before they are sold. The trike has a propane stove on the back and Miller and Watson use a thermometer to ensure the food is kept at 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Frank Callo donated the sturdy old trike, once used to move machinery in a factory, to Good Golly Tamale. It needed a little work, so Miller and Watson made some repairs and painted it mustard yellow.
Good Golly Tamale served their first customers at the Market Square Farmer's Market last Saturday. On Sunday, at a Good Golly Tamale kick-off celebration at the Public House, Miller and Watson offered free tamale samples to the public.
Business has been good. They sold out before noon on at the Farmer's Market on Saturday. About a hundred people attended the party at the Public House consuming each batch of fresh tamales within minutes.
"I thought it would be this little thing we did on Saturdays, but a lot of people seem interested.... I think we are going to be a bit more busy than I thought," says Miller.
Prices are 1 tamale for $3, or 2 for $5. They also have future plans to sell frozen dozens and half-dozens.
Current varieties on sale are: chicken and green chili; egg, cheese, and green onion; chorizo and fire-roasted tomatoes; or, the vegan option is blue corn masa, mashed potatoes, kale, black eyed peas.
One can find their yellow tamale trike with the red umbrella at the Market Square Farmer's Market this Saturday. Come early, as the tamales seem to be in high demand.