A classic Union Gap tamale shop, open since 1990, gets a 2018 James Beard America's Classics award.
Every year, along with big-name chefs and au courant restaurants, the James Beard Foundation honors a handful of America’s Classics — locally owned places across the country, in business for a decade or more, doing the day-to-day work of making beloved food for the people around them. As the Beard Foundation puts it, these are “restaurants that have timeless appeal and are cherished for quality food that reflects the character of their community” — restaurants we’re honored to have in our everyday lives. Here in Seattle, for example, the more-than-a-century-old favorite (and the city’s first sushi bar) Maneki received the award, back in 2008.
Los Hernandez Tamales in Union Gap, Washington, has just been given a 2018 James Beard America’s Classics award, and very deservedly so. Open since 1990, the family-run spot only serves tamales, and they are special — especially, in the springtime, the ones made with local asparagus. Union Gap’s just south of Yakima; coming by car from Seattle, you could be there in two and a half hours from, say, right now. (The season for asparagus tamales runs from roughly mid-April until sometime in June, depending on the weather, in case you want to plan a trip then.)
From my 2015 article on Los Hernandez:
“Owner Felipe Hernandez calls his place ‘modest,’ but Los Hernandez’s tamales are immodestly excellent. They’re known far and wide, with the guest book on the counter containing the happy testimony of visitors from all over the United States and as far away as England, Argentina and China. Hernandez’s family comes from Piedras Negras in Coahuila, Mexico, just across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas; Los Hernandez’s Texas-style tamales are from his sister Leocacia’s recipe.”
Here’s more on the place, the family, and the tamales’ greatness. Los Hernandez will be honored, as the rest of this year’s chef and restaurant James Beard award-winners are announced, on May 7 in Chicago. Congratulations to them, and see you in Union Gap!