Mother-daughter duo Valerie Gonzalez and Herlinda Lopez-Wood gift foodies of San Antonio and Austin with familiar tastes of their childhoods.

By Cy White. Photos courtesy of Delicious Tamales.

Imagine Christmas morning in a small home in Laredo, Texas. The house is buzzing with the sounds of family, music, merriment. The air is a cornucopia of scents: fresh holly, cinnamon and spice…homemade tamales. Growing up surrounded by extended family and her beloved grandmother, Valerie Gonzalez remembers the traditional tamalada activities that took place every Christmas Eve in her family household. 

But the love that made up Gonzalez’s upbringing didn’t dull her powerful dedication to her community. As an active participant in the Chicano movement of the 1970s, her ardor for fighting alongside her people came second only to her love of that annual Christmas Eve tamalada tradition. An ardent student and activist, Gonzalez graduated from UT Austin with a bachelor’s degree in social work and her master’s in the same from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. This is where the official first chapter of Delicious Tamales began. Armed with her abuela’s recipe, $500 and a new husband, Gonzalez opened up the first official Delicious Tamales in 1980 in the Alamo City.

Gonzalez carried those familiar sights, sounds and scents with her throughout her life. She passed both the family’s traditions and her passion for activism on to her own daughter, Herlinda Lopez-Wood, preparing her for the role as her mother’s right hand. In 2006, with her daughter at her side, Gonzalez embarked on a new chapter of Delicious Tamales when she gained sole ownership of the business. Now with six locations in San Antonio and two in Austin, Gonzalez and Lopez-Wood continue to bring innovation to a family tradition, gifting Central Texas with an abuela’s love.

Tell us about what inspired the decision to go from a home kitchen to Delicious Tamales, the business.

Even before the first Delicious Tamales store opened in the 1960s, making tamales was a tradition that involved our entire family: abuelas (grandmothers), tías (aunts), primos (cousins) and all the siblings. The popularity of our tamales at Christmastime led us to seriously consider year-round production to generate enough income to meet the needs of our growing family. It was a risky move, but from the beginning our tamales were well-received in the Westside of San Antonio, where our neighbors were grateful to have a favorite, tasty and inexpensive homemade meal, without the time and labor to make tamales themselves.

As the popularity of our tamales grew, so did Delicious Tamales. We now offer 14 flavors at six locations in San Antonio and two locations in Austin. Orders can be delivered by GrubHub, DoorDash or UberEats. We’ve also been shipping tamales nationwide for more than 20 years and recently added other favorite Mexican dishes to our shipping menu. It’s amazing how much we gain when we put in hard work and maintain the high quality of our tamales, so they taste just like the ones our abuela made more than 60 years ago.

What inspired the expansion to your two Austin locations?

After many successful years in San Antonio, we were ready to expand into new territory. Austin is the perfect community because of the strong connections Valerie built during her time as a student at UT Austin. Plus, we have a lot of loyal customers willing to drive from Austin to San Antonio to buy our tamales, so we thought we’d make their life a little easier. LOL! Seriously, Austin and San Antonio are very different, but the one thing residents of both cities have in common is their love of good food. Opening our Austin locations at 1931 E. Oltorf and at 1700 W. Parmer Lane at Metric, plus expanding our shipping menu to include other Mexican foods, including Carne Guisada and Picadillo, are two great decisions for us. 

CultureMap Austin nominated Delicious Tamales as Best New Restaurant. (Congratulations!) What were your reactions to the nomination?

We are beyond grateful to have gained so many new customers in such a short time and to feel right at home in Austin. We strive to provide a product that lives up to its name. Austinites have welcomed us with open arms, and the nomination was like icing on the cake. We are thankful for all our Austin customers who voted for us as the Best New Restaurant in 2022.

Advocacy and activism are important values for Delicious Tamales. What drives both of your dedication to activism?

Herlinda Lopez-Wood and Valerie Gonzalez

We are proud to say Delicious Tamales is led by two strong women. We each have our own histories and experiences with activism. Valerie was very much a part of the Chicano movement during her days at UT in the ’70s. Herlinda was a member and supporter of Amnesty International during her high school years and while in college. Our values also impact the culture that exists within our company. Delicious Tamales supports and advocates for those who’ve faced challenges in the past and who need a helping hand. Our company hires individuals who have completed their legal obligations and who are now ready to be active and productive members of our community. We believe it’s important to see the good in everyone.

You have aspirations of creating a scholarship for first-generation entrepreneurs. What other causes are close to your heart?

Establishing scholarships for fellow entrepreneurs is top priority for Delicious Tamales because we believe the opportunity to successfully launch a business idea begins with a strong education. 

For 30 years, we’ve been providing tamales at bulk cost for fundraising efforts by schools, churches and other nonprofits, including Manos de Cristo in Austin. We’re proud of the success of these annual fundraisers! We are also dedicated to supporting organizations that advocate for children. Too often youngsters are easily overlooked, which means their basic needs go unmet. We want to do our part to be sure children are ready to “steer the ships” of the future. 

Any surprises you want to share about the future of Delicious Tamales?

The new year will bring exciting new options! Once the holiday rush is over, we’ll be developing new recipes to introduce, and we’re experimenting with new flavors. We are also exploring ways to introduce Delicious Tamales to customers in other Texas cities, including Dallas and Houston. We don’t know what that looks like yet, but food trucks are a possibility. The world is our oyster; or as we like to say, “El mundo es nuestra hoja (corn husk).” We can’t wait to open to see and share with you what’s inside.



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