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Michigan’s Best Local Eats: Tamale Kitchen serves up an old family recipe in Kalamazoo

Michigan's Best Local Eats: Tamale Kitchen serves up an old family recipe in Kalamazoo

KALAMAZOO, MI – David Rodriguez, a retired drywall worker who started selling tamales at farmers’ markets 10 years ago, feels at home in his tiny kitchen on South Sprinkle Road.

“If you don’t call this the American dream, I don’t remember,” Rodriguez said with a laugh. “We have our own kitchen, can cook whatever we want and we have a TV in our kitchen.”

Rodriguez, 60, is a lively character. Ask anyone who’s stopped by Premium Authentic Tamale Kitchen, which he opened in 2019 with his wife, Paula, at 2120 S. Sprinkle Road.

Born to a migrant family, Rodriguez spent his early years in Texas before his family moved to a farm west of Kalamazoo, where he and his siblings spent their teenage years.

“He has come a long way since then,” Paula Rodriguez says proudly.

David Rodriguez was a hard worker who spent 28 years finishing drywall for a company. It didn’t take long for David Rodriguez to get bored when he retired. So as a hobby, he took his late mother’s recipe, the Geneva recipe, and let his wife put her own spin on it, and the couple began selling tamales at farmers’ markets and to neighbors and friends.

Paula Rodriguez, 56, said she hand-rolls about 2,000 tamales a week in traditional corn on the cob, either at the restaurant or in the evenings at home in the couple’s kitchen. However, when holidays like Cinco De Mayo roll around, she knows that number will be much higher.

Beyond the recipe, the secret is in steaming the tamales for just the right amount of time and at the right temperature, David Rodriguez said.

“It’s all about experience. If you cook them too long they will dry up,” he said. “The better you get to know them, the better you perfect them, but the most important thing is the recipe.”

That recipe, an old family recipe, is not being disclosed, but he did say that it has cumin and garlic mixed with a variety of other spices.

The Tamale Kitchen is open six days a week and four of them have everything on the menu, along with authentic rice and beans and their own version of Elote, served in a cup instead of on a cob. On Mondays and Fridays, the couple serves tacos and tostadas.

“We don’t have a big menu, we keep it simple because the tamale, that’s enough,” said David Rodriguez. “I could make a great taco or an enchilada with all the sauces and stuff, but my product is primarily this here, the tamales.”

Guests at the drive-thru—which will soon have a back patio for on-site dining—usually have a choice between pork and chicken tamales. Occasionally, Paula Rodriguez said, they offer specials such as Southwest tamales, which include sweet potatoes, black beans, bell peppers, onions and cilantro.

Specials, with a minimum order of a dozen, can be ordered anytime with a two-day advance, she said.

In addition to the drive-thru, tamales can be ordered online through grub hub or by dash, but special orders require people to call.

“It’s all about being simple and affordable,” she said.

Tamales cost $2.12 each or $21.20 for a dozen and are served with mild or sour cream, guacamole, and mild or hot sauce. Of course, meal specials with rice and beans are also available.

The Premium Authentic Tamale Kitchen is open Monday through Friday from 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM and Saturdays from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM. The kitchen is closed on Sundays. For more information or to order click here or contact 269-903-2322. If you place an order for Cinco De Mayo, please contact the kitchen no later than May 4.

Visit the kitchen on facebook here

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