A century ago, tamale wagons rolled through the unpaved streets of Orange County, manned by Mexicans selling their steaming treasures to hungry gabachos. Pendejo councilmembers eventually legislated them out of existence, claiming tamaleros sold dirty food, that they drew bad crowds, that they robbed business from brick-and-motor restaurants, that they didn’t pay their fair share of taxes—the same bullshit politicians used against taco trucks until hipsters got into the game. That led to tragedy: great tamales were no longer available daily to to Orange County, and fans had to largely wait until the holidays for Mexicans to get into the masa-wrapping experience.
But a curious thing has happened in SanTana over the past year: tamale wagons are back! They’re popping up in residential neighborhoods, in auto shops, in industrial parks and even outside of Northgate. And then there’s Tacos El Yogi, a bright-yellow trailer that parks Fridays through Sundays outside a house kind enough to put out seating for its crowds. Sometimes, the owners will put a strobe light on the SUV parked in front of it, the better to catch the attention of drivers as they speed down McFadden Avenue; at all times, the SUV hosts a sign proclaiming “TAMALES OAXAQUEÑOS”—catnip to a city whose Mexican immigrant population has slowly changed over the past decade from michoacanos and chilangos to people from Southern Mexico.
El Yogi does sell tacos, burritos and quesadillas, the better to appeal to the pocho homies who inevitably pull up for a late-night bite in their tricked-out Chryslers. But the paisas all go for the fabulous tamales, which come wrapped in either corn husks or banana leaves. The former are smaller, spicier, and thicker, with the best being the cheesy rajas con queso; the latter are mushier but full meals, as best exemplified by the mole negro: nearly half a chicken is in it, slathered in a sweet, spicy sauce. But the best meal is the guajalota: your choice of crema-smeared ttamale, inside a fluffy bollilo—a tamale sandwich! It’s a specialty of Mexico City, the equivalent to eating a maternity pillow, and will cost you a week on the elliptical—but fuck, is it bueno!
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On the northwest corner of Birch Street and McFadden Avenue, Santa Ana. No phone number