"In order to do tamales well, it's a labor-intensive, time-intensive process. I tell people you should take a risk and try one," Swabb says. "When people ask if we have regular tacos, I tell them, no, we have extraordinary tacos."
Swabb is an accountant by trade and a former restaurateur. He and his wife ran the Saddle Sore Brewing Co. at 119th Street and Quivira back in the mid-'90s. The brewpub, where Barley's Brewhaus is now, was open only seven months.
"The idea was that you take off your spurs and relax," Swabb says. "The beer was good, but the space was just too big."
And while Swabb admits that it is unnerving to open a second restaurant (this time around with partner and son, Charlie), he felt compelled to help introduce Kansas City to some of his favorite regions in Mexico via his tacos and tamales. At the farmers market, the space on the cart meant that Swabb could offer only two taco and tamale choices. In the River Market, he's got a rotating menu of at least four tacos and tamales, as well as soups, roasted chicken, and sides of rice and beans.
"The pipian sauce for the roasted chicken is out of this world. It's a green mole made with pumpkin seeds. It's an earthy, soulful sauce on top of good old-fashioned roasted chicken," Swabb says.
While there's plenty of meat choices (chicken tinga and pork al pastor, among them), vegetarians have a number of options at Tamale Wizard, including a green chile and cheese, spinach and oyster mushroom, and black bean and sweet potato tamale. The restaurant sells Soda Vie soda as well as Pepsi products. Swabb is applying for a beer and wine license and plans to have two Boulevard taps as well as a rotating cast of craft beers.Tamale Wizard also has some unique sauces and salsas made in-house, which include cherry pistachio, avocado sour cream, mango banana, and grilled jalapeno and tomato.
"It's really all about doing it the hard way," Swabb jokes. "We make salsas up to twice a day. We don't sell salsa to-go because I don't want to be in the salsa business. It doesn't have a shelf life. You've got to eat it then and there."
Tamale Wizard began offering Saturday breakfast last weekend. The breakfast menu includes chilaquiles and tacos with homemade chorizo, scrambled eggs and cheese. Swabb also plans to serve Grand Marnier French toast.
Tamale Wizard is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. It serves breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. every Saturday.