Six years ago, chef Naomi Andrade Smith earned herself a cult following for her banana leaf-wrapped tamales, made with the most tender, moist masa imaginable. They tasted better than any you could get anywhere, including much of Mexico. But, just as Smith was planning to open a real store-front take-out shop to keep up with increasing demand, she fell ill. And Seattle went into withdrawal.
The good news is that she’s back in good health. The other good news is that she’s, well, back. Back with fried plantains that you can buy by the pound. With whole roast chicken adobo, ready to take home. Back with some of the best guacamole in the world (which you can pass off as your own—she won’t tell). And back selling those perfect tamales, filled with Oaxacan mole and chicken, beef with red mole, and cheese and jalapeno. The burritos are back as well: chile-marinated whitefish and lime, tofu in adobo, carne asada. All served out of a sunny, colorful storefront just off the main-drag in Columbia City.
Showing her Seattle roots, Smith’s roasting her own coffee, too. Sip a cup of her Café Mocambo brew as you browse the case, salivating over her spicy Mexican rice and homemade black beans, or the dreamy orange rind-flecked wedding cookies. There’s no doubt about it: The good old days are back. Get there and eat.