Tour Los Hernandez, a Year-Round Tamale Staple in Eastern Washington


Welcome to the photo seriesĀ Eater Scenes, in which photographers visit some of the world’s great food sites to capture them at a certain, and very specific, point in the day. Today, photographer Gordon King visits Los Hernandez Tamales in Union Gap, Washington.

Christmas in many Mexican-American households means tamales. It’s a time-consuming communal tradition to stand around the kitchen table, hands crusted in masa dough and surrounded by dried corn husks, carefully folding each packets for delivery into a giant boiler pot. However, at Los Hernandez Tamales in the small Eastern Washington town of Union Gap making tamales is a year-round affair.

Founded in 1990 by Felipe Hernandez, the restaurant draws customers from as far abroad as France seeking out the summer specialty: asparagus and pepper jack cheese tamales. In the winter, locals turn to the small white brick restaurant to fill their holiday tamale needs. “Christmas Eve is the busiest day from all year,” says Felipe’s daughter Rachel Wilburn. On that day alone, Los Hernandez sells up to 500 dozen tamales. The demand is so high, that the restaurant now utilizes an off-site commissary to fill orders.

Photographer Gordon King visited Los Hernandez on a Friday at 10 a.m. during the height of the Christmas tamale-making season. In the kitchen, Felipe was hard at work with his employees preparing a small batch of asparagus-cheese tamales as a steady stream of customers dropped by to pick-up special orders and lunch.