Ray’s Food Truck

It’s not often that your customers draw your t-shirt for you. But that happened for Raymond’s Catering, aka Ray’s Food Truck. Even though nobody’s really named Ray.

Ray’s Food Truck was an no-frills food truck that worked Santa Cruz’s West Side (and beyond) for many years. Ray’s route was old-school: a fixed series of Monday-Friday stops covering the same work sites and schools over and over again.

From Ray’s you got taqueria food on wheels, and yes, it was both good and low-priced. There was a giant meatball sandwich, too, if you wanted it.

Look at the t-shirt. That’s Godfrey “Ray” Raymond in the background, looking a little hunkier than real life. He captained the ship and Alicia Gonzales, in foreground with meatball sandwich, was chef. Cubicle slaves and universal joint adjusters of the West Side, the geeks and High Professors of Science up on Science Hill at UCSC: they all wanted Alicia’s fresh-tasting, well-made burriitos and tacos and nachos and platos.

I chatted with Ray for awhile once. He comes from a restauranteur family down around Watsonville. His restaurant went under in a recession, so Ray hit the streets with the food truck and Alicia — a long-time employee of his family — and never looked back. That’s not the story I’ve read elsewhere, and I’ve been known to channel alternate universes. But that’s what I remember. Hidden details no doubt exist.

The t-shirt design came from a steady customer, described by Ray as a well-known illustrator for the music industry and possibly a little too fond of the funny substances. In any case, this guy decided that Ray’s truck needed its own t-shirt, and after several prolonged absences finally showed up with a design, the one above. Ray happily printed up t-shirts. Of course I found my copy at Goodwill, but Ray gave me a bumper sticker on the house anyway.

The West Side liked the food, and they liked Ray and Alicia. Ray was always ready with a howdy and a smile and a corny joke as he took your money and passed the orders to Alicia. If you didn’t have the cash — cash only — tomorrow just might be fine.

I’d get to one of their stops early sometimes and see the two of them drive up in the truck, Alicia riding shotgun up front in the big windows and both of them laughing. Somebody had tacked mismatched chrome letters to the front bumper. They spelled TACO.

The truck had a regular stop on Ingalls in front of a machine shop where the workers would sit in shop clothing on the sidewalk and chow Alicia’s burritos. Meanwhile, across the street in the patio of Kelly’s Bakery Cafe, the well-heeled elite of the West Side sat at patio tables and nibbled on breaded chicken-breast sandwiches and organic salads at two or three times the price. I’ve eaten from both sides of the street, and I liked the food truck’s side better.

Sadly, Ray’s Food Truck is no more. The decision was made in June 2020 according to Ray’s Facebook page. COVID-19 took away the truck’s customers. The pandemic took down Kelly’s Cafe, too. But Kelly’s could still bake bread; wholesale bread and pastries are their core business. Ray and Alicia could only lie low for awhile until things blew over, and maybe find a new way to run the business. And things didn’t. And they couldn’t.

Finally Alicia had to get job, and Ray hung it up and said goodbye on Facebook. And that’s it, at least for now. I’ve got the t-shirt, that’s true. But it doesn’t taste good.

I have the bumper sticker, too: it says “Raymond Loves Everybody.” I don’t know if that’s actually true. But it seemed like it.

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