When I walked up to the non-descript door of a former soul food restaurant in Clarkston (285 and 78) I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had seen the Tamale Queen food truck at several events and even sampled many of their offerings, but nothing about this place screamed trendy food truck operation. To be totally honest, I felt a little out of place as I got gas next door to their commissary/budding restaurant. I received several stares from the locals that seemed to say, “What’s this guy doing here?”
Many of the Tamale Queen crew have experienced this same feeling, but on a much larger and more serious scale; most are immigrants or refugees from war torn countries that came here in search of a better life. The story behind the Tamale Queen is truly inspirational, and not at all what I expected to hear that morning.
Bouran and her business partner Luma started Tamale Queen to bring home-cooked recipes to the citizens of Atlanta. The two business partners met while attending high school in Jordan, were Bouran’s family ran an upscale Mediterranean restaurant. Based in Clarkston, which is part of the national refugee resettlement program, they churn out delicious tamales and tacos to load up their truck Consuela!
The population of Clarkston is almost 65% immigrant/refugee and Luma and Bouran have truly embraced them, especially the children, many of whom have lived through wars and experienced severe hardship. Luma started the Fugee’s Family in 2006 as a non-profit organization devoted to working with child survivors of war. It started out as using soccer to bring refugee boys together and has grown to include year-round soccer for 86 boys aged 10-18, after-school tutoring and a private academy. To learn more, visit their website (http://www.fugeesfamily.org/index.htm) or check out this great piece from Tom Brokaw (http://vimeo.com/18430190)!
Bouran and Luma started the Tamale Queen earlier this year out of their passion for food and people and to assist the Fugees Family; a percentage of the proceeds go directly to the non-profit, and all of their staff are either graduates of the program or parents of children in the program! Tamales were a natural choice for a food truck, that and the fact that one of their cooks has been perfecting her family recipe for decades! They use large caldrons to steam batches of tamales for two to three hours!
They go through about 400 tamales per serving, and feature chicken, spicy pork and a veggie cheese option. They also have a small selection of tacos featuring steak, fish, pork and chicken, and they have daily specials that are up to the discretion of the chef. They’re hoping to roll out breakfast foods in the coming week and have generously provided us with one of their first offerings (see below)!
Their mantra is to keep it simple; small menu, authentic family recipes, quality ingredients and affordable prices! They plan on opening their brick and mortar location in Clarkston in a few weeks; it will be called Queen Foods and feature various types of ethnic cuisine from their diverse staff. They also plan on rolling out additional food trucks focusing on different types of food from the Middle East and beyond, but for now they’re focusing on Tamales and always have their lucky peppers in tow.
You can find them at most Atlanta Street Food Coalition events (Street Food Thursdays at Woodruff Arts Center, Food Truck Fridays at Atlantic Station, etc) and various other pop up locations; follow them on Twitter for up to the minute info (@tamalequeenATL)! Bouran and Luma have a really good thing going, and if you believe in Karma, then they have a lot of good coming to them. It’s one thing to operate a food truck, but quite another to change people’s lives.
Egg & Cheese Breakfast Tacos
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 jalapeño pepper, diced
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled
1 ounce chopped fresh cilantro
4 flour tortillas (warmed)
Hot pepper sauce (optional)
1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cut jalapeño in half lengthwise, remove seeds, and dice green halves. Add to skillet and sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Add tomatoes and salt; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently.
2. Add eggs; cook 3 minutes or until soft-scrambled, stirring constantly. Sprinkle evenly with cheese and cilantro. Serve with tortillas and hot sauce, if desired.