Irene De La Cruz: Traditional food in a unique setting

If you drive around Merced County, you might notice a food truck that has been parked in the same place for several months or even years. These food trucks are referred to as taco trucks.

They are mobile trucks that sell mostly tacos and burritos, plus other Mexican fast food items. You can buy anything from small taquitos to quesadillas and even menudo or pozole at some taco trucks. Sometimes you can find a taco truck parked next to the industrial part of town, a construction site, near a shopping center, in the parking lot of a grocery store or in the agricultural fields during the noon hour. They are sometimes even employed for private parties or events where they are the exclusive food providers of the night.

Historically, food trucks in the United States can be traced back to the chuck wagons used on long cattle drives and the push carts selling food in the larger cities and on the East Coast. The famous taco trucks were started by Mexican immigrants in the United States decades ago. They were smart to realize that they too could become part of a revolution in the food industry that took the food to the people in neighborhoods, business communities and industrial work sites. In Merced County, taco trucks have been around long enough to have become a staple in our communities.

There are more than 50 taco trucks in Merced County, a small amount compared to the counties to the north or south of us. Nonetheless, the taco trucks we have in this county have contributed greatly to the local economy by the mere fact that they too are a local business and have survived in a very competitive industry.

How do they stay alive with so many other fast food restaurants around? It’s like any other eatery in town – it’s the quality of the food. It’s important to note that it also caters to the population of the county, which is mostly Latino.

They comply with county regulations, just as any other local business, but they add a special touch to the business environment. Sometimes, the taco truck is the only place to eat when you are out late at night and crave some good food, or off work late and are hungry. There’s nothing better than digging into a warm, freshly made burrito right off the grill when your stomach is growling.

In smaller, unincorporated communities like Delhi, Stevinson, Planada or Le Grand, a taco truck can be a social gathering place for people from the community to visit and chat briefly.

One of the taco trucks in Merced County that is a favorite to many is Ramon’s Taco Truck in Planada. Going toward Yosemite on Highway 140, as soon as you enter the community of Planada one of the first things you see is Ramon’s Taco Truck. It stands apart from other taco trucks not just because of its unique-tasting food, but also because of the many people from different countries who have stopped there.

One of the things owner Ramon Sanchez did for his business was to locate his taco truck next to a highway where people from all parts of the United States and the world travel to and from Yosemite National Park. He has had visitors from countries such as Japan, China, Australia, Canada, Spain, France and England; and from states like New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Oregon and Washington.

Sanchez proudly displays money from different countries on his window to show the representation of people from different countries that have visited his taco truck. Several years ago, Ramon’s Taco Truck also received a positive review in a well-known food magazine that recognized him as the best taco truck in the Valley.

Sanchez is extremely proud of his success and continues to serve traditional Mexican food with the most updated healthy ingredients that people have come to enjoy for years. His workforce consists of his wife, son, daughter, and other family members.

As a small-business owner, Sanchez does more than just operate a business in his community. He is someone that gives back to the community. You can always count on him for a donation of some kind whether it’s for a festival, a school activity or a particular need in the community. He cares about his community and it shows in the way that he treats his customers as much as in the way he participates in his community.

Next time you’re in the area of Planada, going or coming from Yosemite, or just passing by, take time to have a taco or a burrito from Ramon’s Taco Truck – your taste buds will thank you!