MANHATTAN – As the morning sun begins to glow across the East River at dawn, many New Yorkers are still sleeping, but Esperanza and her son Edgar are carefully packing up their tamale cart in their Upper East Side apartment.
One hundred tamales cooked and wrapped, soup and drinks prepared, forks, napkins and bags packed, containers tightly shut, packed neatly and securely. Stepping outside they carefully guide their tamale cart down the sidewalk to the northwest corner of First Avenue and East 86th Street, set up their cart, sit in folding chairs, chat and wait for customers.
ALSO READ | The 6 Best Pizza Slices on the Upper East Side
They don’t have to wait long. Esperanza and Edgar have been lucky. Business has been brisk— their tamales are so good they’re sold out by noon each day. Their tamale cart has become a popular mainstay on this corner. So get there early before they sell out!
And when you do, you’ll be greeted with a friendly smile and a warm greeting. Esperanza and Edgar have been on this corner selling tamales since July, after trying out different locations in the area. Unsure at first of where to set up shop, they eventually settled on this corner.
As Edgar quips, “86th Street and First Avenue…works for us here.” And it also works for the shop they sit outside of, Hybrid Florist. We asked two of their employees how they like the tamale cart outside their door and they are happy to have it there.
Not only do they say it is good for business all around, they regard Esperanza and Edgar as “great people,” and are especially “happy to have a little culture outside their door.”
On top of that, “their food is delicious!”
The authentic tamale recipe is Esperanza’s, from her hometown in Guerrero, Mexico. As Edgar tells it, since Esperanza speaks little English, his mother’s tamale recipe goes back decades, a result of some necessity.
When she was a young woman in Guerrero, she had to assume more responsibility after her “older sister got married and left their village.” To help out at home, Esperanza took over the cooking chores, and taught herself to cook. As Edgar adds, “she learned mostly by herself.”
She and Edgar spend several hours at night preparing their dishes for the following day. In addition to serving two flavors of tamales, queso (cheese) and pollo (chicken) with either red or green sauce, they also offer homemade rice pudding, a homemade corn drink and hot chocolate. On Saturdays they also serve Pozole, a homemade corn soup.
Even if you think you might not like tamales, you may be surprised by how delicious they are, so be sure stop by this tamale cart. Their hours are 8:00 am to noon Tuesday through Saturday.