The next time you find yourself in downtown Phoenix with hankering for a hot tamale and a cold cup of horchata, try heading to the southeast corner of 2nd Street and Taylor. That's where you'll (probably) find the Viva Tamales food cart serving handmade tamales, chips and salsa, hortchata, and cold brew coffee.
The concept is pretty simple. On our recent visit there were two types of tamales to choose from, either red chile beef or green chile corn, as well as either horchata or iced coffee and chips and salsa. The best deal is probably to go for the Lunch Special, which includes a tamale, a drink, and chips and salsa for $8.
Ordering two Lunch Specials let us try both types of tamales, and while we liked the green chile corn variety, the cheese and jalapeños only resulted in a subtle heat. We much preferred the red chile beef, which came filled with a rich, red barbacoa, olives, and jalapeños. The masa in both tamales was flavorful and moist, even despite the fact that the cart advertises using no lard in its products.
The chips and salsa were also up to expectations. Thick, nicely salted chips came with a small side of a chunky, citrusy salsa, which we finished easily.
And as for the drinks, you can choose between either horchata or cold brew coffee — but if you ask, you can also get a mixture of both. This may be the better option since even a 50/50 mixture of the coffee and hortchata made for a pretty sweet sip. In either case, it's a good afternoon pick-me up.
On "Tamale Tuesdays," the Viva Tamales also offers $3 tamales, which is a pretty smokin' deal for a handmade tamale if you ask us. With a $4 horchata-spiked cold brew, we really can't really imagine a better deal for lunch.
Eat your heart out, Taco Tuesday.
To find the Viva Tamales food cart, follow the Viva Tamales Facebook page.