Siskiyou County 'tamale' family opens Yreka restaurant

Jessica Skropanic
Siskiyou Daily News
Josefina Arrendondo stands in front of the sign for her Yreka restaurant, Josefina's Taqueria, located at 1009 South Main Street.

A Siskiyou County family that has been serving customers in Mount Shasta and Yreka for six years opened a new Mexican restaurant in January.

Josefina Arredondo loved cooking so much, making meals for her four children and for customers at her family’s tamale cart wasn't enough. She wanted to be able to cook different things, and make the meals with which she grew up in Sinaloa on Mexico’s West Coast, she said.

So in January, Arredondo opened Josefina’s Taqueria at 1009 South Main St. in Yreka — formerly the location of KeTacos.

Weekday menus include burritos, tacos, nachos and other Mexican dishes popular in the United States, made with a choice of meats, vegetables and sauces, she said. But Arredondo really gets cooking on weekends, whipping up specials like empanadas (savory turnovers), sopes, chile relleno and tortas — beans, vegetables, choice of meat, salsa, guacamole and other ingredients between two slices of bread.

Sopes at Josefina's Taqueria in Yreka.

While most of the dishes she serves are her mother’s and grandmothers’ recipes, Josefina Arredondo likes to invent her own recipes, too, said Arredondo’s daughter April, age 24, who works as hostess and waitress. “She (created) a chile relleno tamale: A roasted chile with cream cheese and pepper jack cheese. Then she puts it on homemade masa.” 

One of her favorite dishes growing up is the restaurant’s specialty, April Arredondo said: A special taco made in Sinaloa called vampiros. "It’s a grilled tortilla, slightly crisped, (loaded) with melted cheese, a meat — choice of steak, marinated pork, chicken, fish or shredded pork — and cilantro, onions, cabbage and guacamole."

The vampiro taco at Josefina's in Yreka

Josefina Arredondo always had a passion for gastronomy, and fondly remembers the first time she cooked by herself. At 11 years old, she made rice.

She spent her early years hovering in the kitchen while her mother prepared meals, she said. Despite her mother’s warnings to be careful, young Josefina was so intent on watching tortillas bake, she got a burn on her stomach from leaning against the wood-burning oven. It left a permanent scar, but she was soon back in the kitchen undeterred.

Years later, she showed April the scar as a reminder to be careful in the kitchen.

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In 1994, Josefina Arredondo — then 16 years old — visited family in Big Springs. She fell in love with Siskiyou County, she said, and moved to the North State. A few years later, started a family with husband Lupe.

She worked at Black Bear Diner in Mount Shasta, making cobblers and other baked goods, until 2013 — a couple of years before the family opened their tamale cart.

The menu at Josefina's Taqueria in Yreka.

Now Josefina runs the restaurant while Lupe Arredondo runs the cart.

“Everyone knows my dad because he’s really talkative.” April Arredondo said. Customers come in and say I’m like my father. “I’m talkative, too. I like being up front (in the restaurant). That’s my place.”

When the restaurant opened on Jan. 28, COVID-19 was widespread throughout California, and business restrictions forbade indoor dining. Lacking outdoor seating, the family only served carryout until a few weeks ago.

Restaurant supplies were had to get during the pandemic, Josephina Arredondo said. It was a struggle finding to-go boxes at that time because so many restaurants were only serving takeout. When they were available, the cost was four times the usual price.

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Even with the challenges of opening during the COVID-19 crisis, she still loves cooking every day, Josephina Arredondo said — so much so, she plans to book private parties when the pandemic is over.

Prices range from $3 for a taco to $10 for full meals. Weekend specials range from $9 to $10.

Hours 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. The restaurant will closed May 6-18 for painting and kitchen upgrades.

The tamale cart is open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays on Oberlin Road in Yreka; and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays across the street from Berryvale Grocery in Mount Shasta.

Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.