Two true statements: I am from Texas. These are the best tamales I have ever had.
A few years back, when Good Golly Tamale was primarily operating out of a bike cart, I remember driving across town to find Matt standing by his bike in a parking lot, dishing out the perfect tamale to anyone who found him. I'd imagine many folks had the same experience chasing down Matt until he opened a storefront in 2015.
When thinking about places that we would proudly send visitors, Good Golly Tamale was at the top of the list. Wanting to know a little more about the place that’s cherished by locals and tourists alike, we reached out to Matt Miller, owner and creative behind Good Golly.
Located in the Historic Old City, the GGT storefront has been open since 2015 with the first Tamales debuting at the Market Square Farmer's Market in 2013. Ever since, these delicious little corn husks filled with goodness have become a staple in the Knoxville food world. Recently expanding the menu, you can now can now choose between beans, greens, rice & curtido (delicious fermented cabbage). Not to mention they have an amazing collection of hot sauces and yummy chocolates for a sweet treat.
Our quick visit with Matt gives you a window into his world, but we think it's best to sample the goods yourself.
Native Maps: Why Tamales? What sets yours apart from the average Tamale?
Matt Miller: The first idea to start a business came from my friend who wanted to start a bicycle burrito cart. The idea naturally evolved to a tamale tricycle for many practical reasons. I felt more excited about the idea of tamales. Plus they are gluten-free, which seems to make a lot of people happy. Also it seemed that a good tamale was harder to come by. Our tamales are different than what most native Knoxvillians think of when they think of tamales. I grew up watching my mom and Granny making tamales with spiced ground beef and sausage in cornmeal and lard. They were tightly wrapped in tamale paper and tied super tight in the middle with twine. Then they were boiled. Our tamales are steamed and wrapped in corn husks. We also use palm shortening and masa harina instead of plain cornmeal. Another difference is that we have so many more flavors like Thai chicken and Calabacitas.
You grew up in Knoxville, what made you want to stick around?
MM: I tried really hard to leave Knoxville more than once and I have to say that felt guided to come back through synchronicity…doors closing, windows opening.
What's your ideal Knoxville Summer day look like?
MM: Last Sunday will probably be my favorite day of the whole summer. I slept in till 10:30, tidied up my house, burned a little sage and cedar wood, and made a French press of coffee. Three friends came over and we prepared some snacks and then drove up to Max Patch. We arrived at 4pm which couldn’t have been a better time. It was perfect weather, perfect company, and perfectly gorgeous Sound of Music kind of landscape. We sat and laid in the grass for three hours like it was a highland beach. On the way home we saw a mother bear and her two cubs. The day ended with a cold beverage and Netflix.
Favorite Knoxville neighborhood?
MM: Now I live in Lincoln Park, but my favorite place that I ever lived in twice was in a co-op house in Fourth & Gill on Gratz St.
Favorite go-to local food spot?
MM: I haven’t gone out to eat in such a long time, but I am always at the food Co-Op and I can tell you that the chocolate chip oat bars is one of the most perfectly balanced sweet treats and the chicken radicchio salad is about the best thing that I have ever had from a plastic clamshell…oh, the almond croissants at Wild Love!
Greatest challenge/setback in running your own small biz?
MM: The greatest challenge is maintaining consistency.
Best life hack?
MM: Moving a cot into the office above the kitchen.
Favorite music/podcast to listen to while working?
MM: My New Year's resolution this year was to listen to William Onyeabor every day for the month of January.
What are you reading right now?
MM: Sadly, I don’t find time to read much besides emails. I did recently listen to The Secret Life Of Trees on Audible.
Pro tip: discount for bulk tamales, and check out the freezer section for take-home tamales. Also, their salsa is a staple in our fridge.
Thanks for reading our visit with Matt Miller of Good Golly Tamale. If you'd like to see your favorite local establishment featured on the blog, or if you'd like to collaborate, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!