At this barebones West Oakland tamale shop specializing in Oaxacan-style tamales — which are wrapped in banana leaves and filled with sweet-and-spicy mole — every leaf-wrapped parcel resembles a small present. Rosa Oliva, a former seamstress who has been refining her mole recipe since she was eight years old, is the chef and tamal-maker-in-chief. Her daughter, Carolina Santos, runs the business side of the operation and acts as sous chef. While there are as many varieties of mole in Oaxaca as there are Oaxacan grandmothers, Oliva makes two, and they’re exceptional: a dark, smoky mole negro and a cinnamon-y mole rojo. The mole tamales come with either pork or chicken, but, really, both meat and masa mostly serve as a canvas for the sauce itself. Daily off-menu specials might include a tlayuda (the Oaxacan-street-snack equivalent to a pizza) or a juicy, well-balanced chile relleño.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Payment Type: Cash only