FERNDALE, Wash. — Diners line up at a tiny Ferndale restaurant for two separate but equal reasons: the food, and the woman affectionately known as "The Tamale Lady.”

Owner Dora Ruiz routinely calls customers “sweetheart” and “honey,” and comes out from behind the counter to do “pulse checks.”

“A lot of the times we tend to just serve a plate and put it out there and leave it at that. I can't do that. That's not what I was raised with,” she said.

At New Mexico Tamale Company, Ruiz takes time to chat with every single customer, making sure they’re enjoying their meal and educating them about the different between Mexican and New Mexican tamales.

"The hatch chile has a lot of flavor and it's grown only in New Mexico,” she said. "I didn't know the big difference until I left, you take it for granted. Then as I traveled around the U.S. looking for that flavor that I hungered, that I grew up with, I couldn't find it."

She opened New Mexico Tamale Company just north of Bellingham to share her family recipes with the world.

The menu is made up of family recipes passed down from Ruiz’s mother, whose framed photo hangs on the wall. Tamales are made with 50% masa and 50% filling, including chicken and pork.

The delicious food and remarkable customer service lead to a big honor from Yelp – New Mexico Tamale Company was named one of the nationwide “Top 100 Places to Eat in 2020.”

It’s located at 5687 3rd Ave. in Ferndale. Customers can buy fresh tamales, or frozen packs to go. The restaurant is open every day but Sunday.

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