Joe Morales and David Vincent Williams grew up in Joe’s family’s restaurant, Casa Morales in Lufkin, Texas and have been best friends ever since. Now they’re business partners for the new Cool Springs restaurant, Tamale Joe’s. The restaurant was built on the foundation of their 50 year friendship, award-winning salsa, and the tamale recipe that has been in Joe’s family for over 200 years.
Joe’s Grandma Casi taught him the tamale recipe, which has been passed down for generations. David says, “For as long as I can remember, she used to come over to make tamales once a year from Mexico. Her tamales were just out of this world. The whole neighborhood would just gorge on them for three days. She lived a great life and had a beautiful spirit about her.” Doña Casi sadly passed away last year at age 93, but her legacy will live on in the love poured into Tamale Joe’s. Grandma Casi blessed each tamale she put into the pot. David says, “That kind of commitment is laced in Joe’s fabric of a person.”
Joe Morales is Tamale Joe, the face of the business. Joe says, “Our goal here in Nashville is to introduce the tamale. We took for granted that everyone knew what a tamale was, but some people think they need to eat the corn husk. That’s just a wrapping and the tamale is inside.” They’re planning on educating the community about what a traditional tamale should taste like. Tamales can be made a variety of ways and people are often misinformed about what they really are.
Tamale Joe’s also caters and sells tamales in bulk through their distribution services, which they agree is a huge part of their business, as tamales are seasonal and not common in this area. They are the first franchisable tamale restaurant concept in America.
The duo’s favorite thing on the menu is the brisket tamale which they describe as “brilliant” and a “happy accident.” That’s one of seven different tamales in addition to street tacos, quesadillas and burritos. Pair with a margarita or seasonal cocktail from their beautiful bar, which boasts the biggest tequila menu in the state of Tennessee.
When Tamale Joe’s first opened in July 2021, they adapted into a fast-casual dining experience because of COVID, supply chain, and labor limitations. However, their true vision for Tamale Joe’s was to be an upscale dinner theater with the finest service and introduce a new entertainment venue to Franklin. David explains, “2022 is going to be the year that Tamale Joe’s redefines itself and molds itself into a hybrid of sorts, from its first conception to a lasting model.
The nice restaurant with the fast food element is confusing to people. We’re going to use 2022 to separate those entities.” Their Cool Springs location will transform into their dinner theater while they open two-three Tamale Joe’s Rápidos. The locations of the fast food drive-thrus are still to be determined, but will have the same beloved menu from 2021. Joe is curating a special dinner menu for the sit in restaurant.
On the weekends, hall of fame songwriters and popular comedians will take the Tamale Joe’s stage. Joe jokes, “We have David Vincent Williams and his friends.” David has been in the music industry for almost 30 years and often performs at Tamale Joe’s. These ticketed events are a highlight of what they’re looking forward to this year.
Nothing can test Joe and David’s powerful friendship. Through unpredictable circumstances in the restaurant industry, their bond and trust in each other only grew stronger. No matter what, Tamale Joe’s will develop into the restaurant they’ve been dreaming of. TamaleJoes.com
By Kat Smith, Tamale Joe's bartender
2.5 oz Anejo (Don felix)
0.75 oz Frangelico
2 shakes chocolate bitters
Add ice, Anejo, and Frangelico, to shaker. Stir with swizzle spoon.
Pour over rock ice.
Add chocolate bitters on top.
Garnish with dust of cinnamon sugar.