Restaurants & Bars

Oakland’s Little Guatemala – The early bird gets the tamale … and churrasco

rworange | Dec 2, 200708:18 AM     8

In the early morning hours on weekends, two Guatemalan tamale ladies sell some excellent … excellent … Guatemalan tamales … but wait … there’s more.

The first lady is located outside of San Miguel, a Guatemalan restaurant. She has a grill going where she grills up onions and beef.

This isn’t going to be a greatly detailed report because it was 8am and I’m not a morning person … which is a major understatement … I don’t start breathing till noon. Also I was caught off guard and just so glad to see Guatemalan tamales which are my favorite of all Latin American tamales.

Wrapped in banana leaves they are moist and wonderful with meat, strips of red pepper, olives and maybe other things … it was early. The chicken tamale here was delicious.

I pointed to the grilling steak but was misunderstood and wound up with what I’m guessing is Guatemalan chile relleno.

There was a pot that looked like mole which turned out to be beans, different from Mexican frijoles, these were almost as liquid as a mole and very nice.

She had three atoles – chocolate, milk with cinnamon stick and corn. I tried the deep dark chocolate which was nicely spiced and may not have had a strong chocolate taste. I only had a sip of this before I knocked the cup over by accident in the car … it was just too early for me.

My feast – tamale, chile relleno and atole – came to a grand total of $6.

My actual destination was the Guatemalan bakery, Chapinlandia, which is next door to San Miguel.

When I asked at the bakery (which opens at 5am) if they ever made tamales, he said no and clued me into tamale lady #2 who is located two blocks from the bakery at La Colema market (International & 49th across from Santo Coyote Restaurant) . His eyes lighted up and he said her tamales were very good. He was right.

But better than the tamales, was the best atole I have ever had. One of the few atoles I really liked. It was so good I will go out of my way to buy this again. It was rich and almost eggy with little bits of coconut, so small that they blended perfectly into the drink.

The tamales were pretty terrific too, tied with a little string. If you eat them there, the tamale lady unties the banana leaf and the fragrant wonderfulness perfumes the air. There is also a onion/pepper sauce which I was warned was hot … no kidding.

Extra points for the woman being in native costume with her Guatemalan skirt, pink frilly apron and long-braided hair. She only sold the atole and tamales and had a larger variety of tamales, chicken, beef, pork and cheese.

On the frigid morning the warm tamales and atole made the most satisfying breakfast ($3.50).

The market itself has a few good things. Fuyu persimmons were two pounds for $1. They had lots of bags of marked down veggies for $1 and they are big on bananas.


It seems on weekend mornings Fruitvale is teaming with tamale vendors. A half a block up from tamale lady #2 is another tamale vendor. I was so stuffed at this point that I didn’t even get out of the car to check it out. However, she has some sort of coleslaw with her tamales and three types of sauce. The customers and vendor didn’t look Guatemalan. I wonder about that slaw though.

Driving up Fruitvale to see if Chapinlandia Restaurant on Foothill was still open (nope), there were three tamale vendors that aren’t usually there during regular hours

It is always surprising to me the food that can be found only early in the morning, the vendors vanishing like the dew once the sun rises in the sky. I have to get up early more ... or stay up later.

San Miguel 2
4729 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

Chapinlandia Bakery
4737 International Blvd, Oakland, CA

La Colmena Produce Market
4825 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

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