This Richmond food cart specializes in Guatemalan tamales

Aguilar says not all of his customers are familiar with rice tamales, but they’ve attracted their own fan base. She has a Filipino customer who even calls ahead to order a sweet version that Antojitos Guatemaltecos can make on demand. She will add sugar to the rice dough and fill it with a mole made from sweet chocolate and a hard-boiled egg.

The Antojitos Guatemaltecos food cart offers at least five different types of tamales at all times. (Luke Tsai)

In fact, the cart offers a whole teaching of Guatemalan tamales, even outside of those made with rice. Its traditional corn-based tamales are prepared in the Central American style, in which the masa is steamed twice so that the texture is extra jiggly and almost pudding in its consistency. It sells chuchitos, miniature corn husk-wrapped tamales that are denser and more similar to the Mexican style, served topped with cheese and salsa. And he also sells pashas, ​​or potato tamales – that is, tamales whose masa base is made with mashed potatoes – which, according to Aguilar, are very common in all Guatemala.

The other most popular item on the cart is atol de elote, a hot corn drink that Guatemalans like to drink when eating tamales, says Aguilar. But really, everything on the menu is outstanding, especially the wonderfully flavorful egg relleños, and the tender chicken thigh simmered in a light mole-like sauce.

Aguilar says when she and her husband started the business in 2015, they just sold tamales from the back of their car. They’ve been operating Antojitos Guatemaltecos as a licensed street cart since 2019, although of course COVID put a damper on business for a while. But tamales have cultivated a large local following over the years, not only among Guatemalan customers, but also among Mexicans, Salvadorans and Hondurans. So, says Aguilar, they feel ready to take the next step toward their ultimate dream: to open a Guatemalan restaurant somewhere in Richmond or San Pablo.

“Maybe Guatemalans are shy to open a restaurant, but our food is also good,” says Aguilar. “We had a few chances before. This time we are ready.

Guatemalan Antojitos is open from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. every day except Tuesday and Sunday. On Saturdays they open early, at 10 or 11 am. The cart is located outside of Panadería Guatemalteca at 653 23rd St. in Richmond. Cash only.