Today the James Beard Foundation announced the five 2018 recipients of its America’s Classics awards, and Los Hernandez Tamales in Union Gap is Washington’s big winner.
The foundation has been giving this title each year since 1998 to restaurants that are “regional establishments, often family-owned, that are treasured for their quality food, local character, and lasting appeal.” Generally, these establishments have been open for more than 10 years and are often overlooked by the other Beard award categories.
The highly specialized Los Hernandez, which makes tamales only, was founded in 1990 by Felipe Hernandez, who immigrated from Piedras Negras in Coahuila, Mexico, in 1957 to work in agriculture in Eastern Washington. Along with his wife, June, their daughter Rachel Wilburn, and her husband Dion, Hernandez has made his business famous for asparagus and pepper jack cheese tamales, available roughly April to June to coincide with the local crop. Chicken and pork tamales are available year-round; all the corn masa for the various tamales is milled in-house.
Los Hernandez joins three past honorees from Washington: Seattle favorites Maneki, Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar, and Ray’s Boathouse and Café.
Eater has more about this year’s other award winners.