CASPER, Wyo. – Family recipes are usually handed down generation to generation. That’s one thing that makes them special, the thread to the past that in some ways keeps beloved relatives alive long after they’ve passed.
Unfortunately, that often means those priceless recipes usually exist in practice rather than on paper.
When Tamale Factory owner Misael Yanez started thinking about opening up his new restaurant, his first obstacle was to make his late grandmother’s tamales more tangible.
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“It wasn’t a ‘recipe,’ it was an old-school pinch of this and pinch of that,” said Yanez. The recipes were now living in his mother’s memory, who’d direct family members when they’d gather in the kitchen for the labor-intensive process of making the masa and fillings.
When his mother, Elvia Yanez, would visit Casper from her home in southern Texas, Yanez says all of his friends and family would ask about her tamales. Over time, he decided to “make this into a recipe.”
The process involved time and trial and error, but eventually a consistent written recipe that could be reproduced was completed.
As his idea for a tamale restaurant grew, Yanez says he decided it would be interesting to experiment with flavors beyond tradition.
Savory chicken and pork tamales are on the menu, of course, but so is a cream cheese and jalapeño variety.
“My mom said ‘you’re crazy’ and my dad said ‘there’s no way people are gonna like that,'” said Yanez. But people do, and since the Tamale Factory opened earlier in July Yanez says they’ve been consistently selling up to 200 dozen per day.
Other flavorful twists available include a chili relleno, a jalapeño popper, and a buffalo chicken tamale.
“Right behind the chicken and pork for sales is always the jalapeño popper one,” said Yanez. “It is working and this is what people want.”
“I’m trying to put a whole menu into a tamale,” said Yanez. Portable food is more attractive in the COVED era, he said. “A lot of people aren’t wanting to eat inside a restaurant, so why not give them a nice easy meal ready to go and eat when you get home.”
Yanez’s full-time job besides the new restaurant is operating K&M Construction. While pondering the restaurant idea, he reached out to his friend and Eggington’s owner Pete Fazio for advice. The next day, Fazio connected Yanez to a realtor who was interested in renting the space that would be vacated by Grab And Go Gourmet, who will soon reopen at a new location on Collins.
Yanez says his parents were eager to help get the restaurant going, but they were nervous about the results.
“There was a lot of money invested into it, my mom was super nervous and said ‘I can’t believe you’re gonna do it,'” he said. “But Casper proved us wrong.”
In spite of the intense work of starting and running a restaurant, Yanez says the pride he gets from serving food rooted in family tradition gives him a sense of pride.
“All the stress and lost sleep, and then to see people come in and love it,” he said.
“It brings my grandmother back to life.”
The Tamale Factory is located at 500 S. Wolcott. Their hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. More information can be found on their Facebook page.