Many of you have enjoyed the tactile pleasure of unwrapping a small taste of heaven purchased from the Good Golly Tamale food cart. Made from organic, non-GMO ingredients, the tamales are of the highest quality ingredients. The taste doesn’t lie: they are spectacular. The business, formed two years ago by friends Chris Watson and Matt Miller has been devoted to serving only the best to their customers from the beginning.
Now operated by Matt and three employees, including his sister, the quality has remained the same, but much has changed in those two years. Originally intended to supplement their income, it has become a full-time endeavor for Matt, who works as many as ninety hours per week. His focus remains the same: making the best tamale possible.
Originally started in the Public House kitchen, the business has operated for some time out of the kitchen at 112 S. Central Street, in the back of what used to be Aisle Nine. When I wrote about the closure of Aisle Nine last February, I mentioned that Matt would likely be in search of a more permanent situation. That’s still true, but the current location turned out to be more permanent than it seemed at the time and as of Friday’s soft opening, it will become the first brick and mortar location for Good Golly Tamale.
Matt is very low key in describing how it came to be: “It’s not like I saved a pile of money and opened a storefront.” Rather he says he continued to use the kitchen and when the front didn’t find a new tenant, the owner offered it to him at a very fair price. Items from Aisle Nine had gradually been removed and he had moved some to the second floor, himself. With the old out of the way, his family helped him build a cool bench. He painted the walls and a friend added flowers. The walls are now covered with Beth Meadows’ art. He found some tables and chairs and it became a space he could feel good inviting people into.
Originally thinking they might sell breakfast burritos, the tamale business has turned into a very good one. Matt had helped his mother and “granny” make tamales, though he says theirs are very different from his. The ease of keeping them hot and fresh, the history of tamales in Knoxville and the fact that they are common street-food in other countries added to the appeal.
It’s been extremely hard work to build the business, but he says that every time someone tells him how much they enjoyed one of his tamales, it encourages him. He’d spent a decade in the food industry – mostly waiting tables. He worked at Three Rivers Market twice. The first time he stocked shelves and the second time he worked the deli. He also worked at Public House.
By far the largest, most dependable sales for him have been at the Market Square Farmers’ Market where, at it’s peak, he’ll sell around 600 tamales on a Saturday. The first time he and Chris sold there they made, “as many tamales as we could,” and sold out within an hour. He said, “We wouldn’t have a tamale business if it wasn’t for the Market Square Farmer’s Market. He said he still feels like he makes about as many tamales as he can. It’s a labor-intensive process and his kitchen is small.
While it may seem to some that his tamales are encountered randomly, he’s actually developed a pretty set pattern. He’s at both the weekly Market Square Farmers’ Markets, sells his tamales at Holly’s Corner, at Hops and Hollers every Tuesday night and at the Fountain City Casual Pint every Thursday night. Of course, he’s also at various special events as he is able. The famous cart with its vintage tricycle will also be at Crafty Bastard this Friday night.
Matt, who isn’t much for self-promotion said he’s, “interested in growing at a natural pace while making quality food. I try my best to keep up with the people who have supported us. While this is the current location, that’s not to say he wouldn’t be interested in finding a larger kitchen and a different address down the line. For now, he’s more inclined to allow things to happen as they will – while he works long hours to make it all come together.
Interestingly, about a year ago at a conference he catered, the leader asked everyone to write down a goal. He wrote that he’d like to have a storefront. The person said to make it a one-year goal. He’d forgotten the incident until recently when he realized it is coming true almost precisely on schedule.
He’ll hold open house this Friday night from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM with wine, chips and – as you might guess – tamales. Starting next week he’ll be open Tuesday through Friday from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM offering many favorites, such as the Thai chicken, classic, queso poblano, vegan soul and veggie pot pie tamales. Hibiscus orange mint tea is also available as long as he can get the mint from his yard. A shifting collection of new items will also make appearances.
Check him out at his new location, 112 South Central Street, this Friday night or during his regular hours. Also, you can find him on Facebook and Twitter. Just be sure to find his tamales. You’ll be glad you did.