The sun warmed our backs as we walked through Market Square past the stands of fresh vegetables, eggs, and baked goods. Heading to the familiar spot where we hoped to be the first in line for a tamale. As we rounded the corner, we could see a line already forming in front of the cart as the aroma of chicken tinga wafted towards us making our stomachs rumble.
Minutes later, tamales in hand, we claim our seats on the rocks in Krutch Park unwrapping the hot tamales as our mouths water in anticipation of the first bite. I douse the organic blue masa of my Vegan Soul with Texas Pete and dig in, the smoky black-eyed peas melding perfectly in flavor with the collards and sweet potato.
From the first taste, years ago, we knew there was something special about Good Golly Tamale. Each Saturday we would head to the Farmer's Market, not only to grab some local veggies but also to fill up on the best tamales we've ever tasted and perhaps to bring a few home for eating later!
Less than a year into our weekly tradition we were thrilled to find out that Good Golly Tamale opened a permanent location in Old City right on South Central. That meant we would be able to grab a tamale for lunch on weekdays!
Since then, Good Golly Tamale is as much as a tradition as ever and is our recommendation when people want to know where to eat in Knoxville. A place we take our friends and relatives when they visit and where we meet up for lunch as often as we can.
Not surprisingly, a quick search on Yelp or TripAdvisor will uncover the fact that everyone loves Matt's tamales and that Good Golly scores 100 on Health Inspections. We've never had a bad experience there, and have yet to meet anyone who didn't rave over the food.
The only complaint I've ever read about Good Golly Tamale is on the occasion they run out of hot tamales. Not sure that can be considered a negative. To run out only means there is high demand, quick turnover, and fresh food made daily! The team comes in at the crack of dawn to start making the tamales – bonus in my book!
One other reason I am happy to take my family to Good Golly Tamale is the quality of ingredients used in preparing the food. Matt uses nonGMO organic corn masa which is kept in plain sight. The transparency about the ingredients doesn't end with the masa as you can see the labels list all the ingredients, which are sourced locally whenever possible.
Picking up tamales for dinner from the freezer case is not a problem, especially considering Good Golly Tamale is just a couple of turns off the interstate. For travelers passing through Knoxville, it's the perfect place to grab a bite to eat for lunch or dinner. Not only is the food unbeatable, but the location and ambiance are also spot on!
I sat down with Matt recently to find out how Good Golly Tamale came to be and his story was almost as good as the food. Over a cup of French Pressed coffee, I listened to Matt share how everything lined up in such a way that left no doubt that it was meant to be.
All the little pieces of the puzzle fit in place for Matt to put together the bicycle cart out of which he first sold the tamales at Market Square. Matt says he had so much luck all along his journey that he still can't believe how flawlessly everything lined up.
We can certainly believe it because you feel it when you walk in the door. The aroma of handmade tamales hits you; if you weren't hungry when you walked in you will be within seconds of entering the doors. We always feel right at home and enjoy socializing and celebrating because the restaurant feels like our own living room with pillows tossed along benches, sunlit windows, local art on display and nooks filled with plants.
When you are passing through Tennessee, or if you live nearby, do your tastebuds a favor by making a stop at Good Golly Tamale! Order one of every flavor and a side of Collard Greens and curtido. Grab a t-shirt while you are there.
As for us, when my kids grow up, I know they'll have fond memories of our times together over hot tamales. My son is sitting beside me as I write this begging me for a tamale right now!