It’s really impressive how much a restaurant’s serving staff can affect the overall experience. It’s a point I make repeatedly in my online Server’s Training Course.
Of course it doesn’t hurt if the restaurant has good food to go along with a pleasant serving staff.
Tamale Co. has both. And now the popular food truck purveyor of fine Mexican fare has a nonwheeled location in Orlando’s unofficially designated Hourglass District.
TC joins a few other businesses, including Foxtail Coffee and Leguminati, inside the solid walls of the Hourglass Social Club, which is sort of a latter day food court.
Tamale Co. has a sizable bit of the space, enough for a food and beer bar, some tables and chairs for feet on the floor seating, and even a corner for Mexican styled merchandise.
I’ve been excited about a permanent downtown Orlando location for Tamale Co. ever since I first had a breakfast tamale from the truck when it was parked at the Winter Park Farmer’s Market. That was three years ago. And it was almost exactly two years ago that Tamale Co. announced that it would be part of the Hourglass development at the corner of Bumby Avenue and Curry Ford Road. (The city, by the way, would like you to refer to this district as Curry Ford West, even though it is well east of the Orlando dividing line.)
Whatever the delays, Tamale Co. finally opened a couple of weeks ago. And the food is still as good as I remember.
I stopped in and was greeted quite cheerily by a young woman at the counter who offered to take my order. She seemed positively giddy to be working there and joyful to have another customer come in.
I ordered the Most Mexican, an unfortunately named combination of chicken and pork tamales with rice and beans. The tamales came conjoined by a topping of white cheese and sour cream and sprinkles of chopped fresh cilantro. They were both quite plump, their girth consisting not only of the firm-soft masa but also the ample fillings of meat. They sat in a salsa verde. The refried beans were good, too, but the rice didn’t rise to the same level. (I’m frequently disappointed by the area’s Mexican rice offerings.)
I also had the Elote, the Mexican street corn, which I didn’t know would come on the cob. I don’t mind eating corn on the cob at home but not so much at a restaurant, especially elote, which can be extra messy. So I just grabbed a knife from the bucket on the bar and de-cobbed it. Tasted like creamed corn.
After we had ordered and paid at the counter, my friend and I took a couple of seats at the bar to sip and beer and wait for the food. A young woman came by and asked if we’d like some chips. Sure, we said, and a few minutes later we had a basket of warm chips with not just salsa but also queso dip.
And after our food was delivered, someone else came by and offered us a special house salsa to go with the burrito. All so very accommodating.
I liked it so much that I returned a couple of nights later for takeout.
This time I got the Chicharron Preparado, a large rectangle of fried pork skin topped with sour cream, tomatoes, cabbage and pieces of pickled pork rind. Delicious.
I also had the Carne Asada tamales, which had the bite-sized pieces of steak on top of the tamale instead of stuffed inside. It also had generous slices of avocado and melted cheese.
For an untamale item I ordered a Chorizo taco, which had pork sausage in a soft corn tortilla, also with avocados and pickled onions. I liked it all.
My only concern with Tamale Co.’s new place is that it’s entirely too close to where I live. I fear I’m going to be here way too much.
Tamale Co. is at 2411 Curry Ford Road, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The website does not have much helpful information. The phone number is 407-203-6505.