Rick Elder is the Tamale Man. His truck has been parked in virtually the same location, give or take a mile or two, on FM 2351 (just west of Beamer) in Friendswood for more than 35 years. His sons — Allen, Eric and Jay — have been running the business since 2009.
“We all used to help out growing up,” Allen Elder said, “so we pretty much knew what to do.” That was good news to the generations who have grown up eating the family’s tamales.
It’s hard to miss the truck. Both sides proclaim “Hot Tamales.” No fancy graphics, no Twitter feeds, no advertising, just good, hot tamales.
Generally, there’s also a line.
“At holiday times, there are four of us working the truck, handing out tamales as fast as we can,” Allen Elder said.
The tamales, which come six to a packet, are very well insulated, which helps to keep them hot. The first layer is two natural corn husks, which surround each tamale. Next, some wax paper, which does an excellent job of holding in the moisture and retaining the heat. This is followed by a sheet of silver foil and, finally, each packet of tamales is put into a brown paper bag, ensuring an added level of insulation.
The Elders sell only three types of tamales: pork, spicy pork and chicken. All have a nice filling-to-masa ratio.
Admittedly, the family has been slow to add to the menu. However, the brothers now serve Chile Con Queso, nachos, guacamole and red and green salsas, the latter of which is fiery, but in a very good way.
“We keep a lot of these salsas in stock because we have some people that come from far away that buy 30 at a time to take back with them,” Allen Elder said. Both the salsas are quite smooth and not chunky.
The family is working on a second truck, which will soon hit the street. “We want to assure our customers, though,” Elder said, “that we’re not going to move the original truck, or change anything on it. We’re just going to build a second one to bring to Houston. We are thinking about expanding the offerings on the second truck to include bean tamales and spinach tamales, since we get a lot of requests.”
The Tamale Man truck is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily.
Paul Galvani is the author of the upcoming guide Houston's Top 100 Food Trucks.