Rolling eateries on campus delight frugal foodies

Three independently owned food trucks roll up to campus each weekday laden with enticing edibles for hungry faculty, students, and staff

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A gyro from Zameen Mediterranean Cuisine
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Chef Alicia Gonzales of Raymond's food truck
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Customers belly up to Cruz N Gourmet (photos by Kirstin Guinn)

Ever since Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight sent the first chuck wagon rolling across the open range in 1866, Americans have learned to eat from four-wheeled kitchens.

UCSC's own moveable feasts are provided by three independently owned food trucks, which lumber up to campus each weekday laden with enough Indonesian pulled pork, fresh Mediterranean flatbread, and perfectly spiced burrito filling to sustain the brains (and stomachs) of scores of faculty, students, and staff.

In the spirit of fast (well, maybe 30 mph) food, we serve up these 15 campus food-truck facts.

Cruz N Gourmet

Location: Baskin School of Engineering, 11 a.m.-2:15 p.m.

Twitter: @cruzngourmet

Facebook: Cruz N Gourmet

  1. Cruz N Gourmet food truck owners Kathy and Daric Wallace backpacked around the world for three-and-a-half years and owned an eco-resort in Fiji for a decade before settling in Santa Cruz. Their tasty world-food cuisine is inspired by their travels.
  2. C-N-G's wildly popular Indonesian pulled pork (tacos, wraps, and bowls) takes five to seven hours to prepare. Chef Daric, a graduate of Western Culinary Institute, uses a long list of ingredients to give this signature dish its ahh-inducing, sweet-smoky flavor. His secret ingredient? A hard-to-find Indonesian sweet soy sauce.
  3. The Wallaces's custom-built food truck can serve 600-700 people. Its sparkling interior includes a six-burner stove, cold-prep table, grill, deep freezer, refrigerator, deep-fat fryer, steam table, ice bin, and a double oven.
  4. On a recent warm day, as Kathy and Daric worked in their tchotchke-dotted kitchen, the temperature inside the truck climbed to 92 degrees. Between the campus and private parties, the couple is often on the job seven days a week.
  5. One of C-N-G's big draws is Daric's mouthwatering, housemade curries. "Our philosophy," Kathy says, "is to put out good, tasty, interesting, and quality food."

Raymond's

Location: Behind Physical Sciences Building, noon to 2 p.m.

Yelp: Raymond's Catering

  1. Raymond's was the first food truck on campus. Owner G. Raymond (his first name is as secret, as are the truck's recipes) arrived in 2000 to feed construction workers on Science Hill. "Everything here is blue-collar," says Raymond of the truck's menu, which ranges from tacos to meatball sandwiches. "If you can't find something off this truck, you're not hungry."
  2. Those in the know start lining up at 11:45 a.m. for the noon arrival of Raymond's 1988 GMC truck. Raymond and chef Alicia Gonzales start work at 6 a.m. and quit at 6 p.m. UCSC is just one stop in their busy day.
  3. Price and quality food are what keep bringing people back. A vegetarian burrito stuffed with avocado, salsa, beans, rice, cheese, and crunchy cabbage will cost you only $4.50. Sometimes, Raymond will hand out free donuts. Be prepared, however—cash is the only currency at Raymond's.
  4. Chef Gonzales is known not only for her great-tasting food but also for her amazing memory. Raymond related how a regular customer stepped up to the truck window after having been gone for five years and Alicia recited his burrito order to him before he could open his mouth.
  5. Ask and you shall receive at Raymond's. Roasted peppers on the side? A little more spice? It doesn't matter if it's not on the menu—Alicia will cook it for you. "All of the food here is really good," says Caroline Berger, health science internship coordinator, as she left the truck with a specially ordered taco salad. "Alicia makes it up fresh, and it's extremely affordable."

Zameen Mediterranean Cuisine

Location: Digital Arts parking lot, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Website: Zameencuisine.com

Facebook: Zameen Mediterranean Food Truck

  1. The flavors of the Mediterranean — pomegranate, saffron, and mint — turn a visit to this food truck into a sensory pleasure. In fact, this rolling eatery offers the same food that is served in its parent restaurant, Zameen in Aptos.
  2. All of Zameen's flatbreads are made from scratch by truck chef Fermin Martinez. Wrapped around a variety of fillings, including wonderfully spiced lamb and sautéed onions, shrimp, or tasty vegetable kebabs, these breads allow hard-working diners to eat with one hand and multi-task with the other. Even a Greek burger gets a wrap.
  3. Truck manager Michael Voors's positive energy is matched only by the bright orange and yellow colors of the Zameen truck. He will happily provide a taste of the truck's housemade tzatziki, pomegranate-walnut, or tahini sauces to a neophyte or make his own recommendations for a great-tasting combination.
  4. One of Zameen's most popular pick-up-and-go foods is a heaping container of garlic fries.
  5. For views, Zameen has got every campus restaurant beat. Walk a few feet and you've got a front-row panorama of the Monterey Bay while you eat.