Excursion Spotlight: That’s One Hot Tamale
Rhoda's Famous Hot Tamales
photography by Ashlee Nobel
One of the state’s most treasured eateries can be found in the Delta town of Lake Village, Ark., population 2,343. Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales is located just off of Highway 65 in a small trailer with a dirt parking lot. The untrained eye might not guess that within the modest structure lie the best hot tamales — and some of the best fried chicken and pie — in the region.
Rhoda Adams, a Louisiana native, and husband James opened Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales 39 years ago, after Rhoda’s cooking career outgrew the church where she suppalied members with hot meals many nights of the week.
She learned the basics of cooking as a young girl and honed her skills cooking for her church congregation. “I grew up in a home with four brothers and three sisters. I was the oldest sister so I had to cook for all those kids,” Adams said.
“I was selling food for the church and got so big I needed help. I went to the church but they couldn’t help, so the ‘church mother’ told me I should go into business for myself. She told me to listen to the Lord, and that’s what I did.”
Adams said the Lord told her to start making pies. She only knew how to make one pie at the time — sweet potato — but soon cooked up recipes for some of the region’s best pecan, coconut, lemon meringue, chocolate and lemon icebox pies. She looked to her husband’s aunt, who was a seasoned tamale-maker for guidance in that arena and after her husband purchased a tamale machine, Adams was in business.
In the beginning, she could make about 24 dozen tamales in a day, all of which would be gone within a few hours of opening her doors. Now she has the ability to make hundreds so the restaurant is fully stocked. Her tamales are a beef and chicken mix, wrapped in a cornhusk to seal in all the spices and flavors.
Whether you prefer to slice open the husks, or squeeze the delicious creations from the bottom up (much faster) to devour them, you will love every bite. They are spicy, but not intolerable — ample Louisiana Hot Sauce is available for those who prefer to turn up the heat.
While you must try the hot tamales at Rhoda’s — they are famous after all — there are a few other menu items that we would dare to say rival the tamale’s perfection. For instance, the fried chicken was some of the best we’ve had in Arkansas; the meat was tender, the skin crunchy and full of flavor, we left nothing but the bones.
The day we visited, spaghetti was also on the menu. Other entrée items include fried catfish on Fridays, burgers, chilidogs, barbecue sandwiches and more. Load up your plate with any of her delicious sides, including Tator Babies, fries, onion rings, potato salad and more.
Arrive early to get a pie, many of the pies are pre-sold and sent out for delivery at the beginning of the day. Get a whole pie for $9, or a mini pie for $1. If you can’t decide on what flavor, try a half sweet potato/half pecan pie.
Though the food is road trip-worthy from any corner of the state, the real gem of Rhoda’s Famous Tamales is Rhoda herself. Adams greets each customer who walks through the door with a smile and a genuine interest in who they are and what brought them to her and her tamale shop. She’s had customers from Oklahoma, Texas, Florida and beyond. She’s filled requests to ship her tamales to Florida, New York and Chicago. She’s proud of her product and displays her many write-ups in local and regional publications on the walls of her tiny restaurant where she, James and her two grown daughters work.
We suggest you “get off the beaten path” and find this Delta treasure. Definitely get the tamales; don’t leave without a pie; and if you are lucky you may get to meet the Famous Miss Rhoda.
Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales
714 Saint Mary St.
Lake Village, AR
Call ahead for hours