Holy Guacamole: Hungry? Let’s taco ’bout it
Hungry? Let’s taco ’bout it
Holy Guacamole’s inside-of-an-avocado-colored food cart sits at the back of an empty gravel lot along the main road through The Plains, Ohio. From the road, a large vertical banner announces to the passing traffic, “TACOS HERE.” I’m standing next to the cart when a passing mini-van’s horn honks and a passenger waves out the window.
Rudy Ramirez, Evelyn Nagy, and their son, Alexandro, each wave back. It’s one of Rudy’s regular customers, Evelyn tells me. Evelyn has met with me to talk about Holy Guacamole, though she says the business truly belongs to Rudy. Four years ago, the couple bought the former hot-dog cart with money loaned to them by friends. Evelyn has continued to work full-time as a case-manager. While both she and Alexandro are likely to lend a hand at special events, it’s Rudy who operates Holy Guacamole day-to-day.
Alexandro climbs up and sits on the hood of his father’s truck. He and Evelyn answer my questions while Rudy steps away to help a customer. Alexandro, now 11, tells me that he is attempting to learn how to cook, and that he likes to help his mom and dad in the garden picking tomatoes, except that he also has a little bit of a fear of getting dirty. Evelyn shares that Alexandro was a big influence on her and Rudy’s decision to start Holy Guacamole. With the addition of a beautiful baby boy to the family, Evelyn tells me, she and Rudy needed to keep working and raise their child. The food cart, where Rudy is his own boss and sets his own hours, allows them to do both.
Once a center of activity for the Adena Indians, The Plains, Ohio, is home to about 3,000 people today. At least two Adena mounds still exist in the area, sharing the landscape with the amenities of modern culture, including a McDonalds, Subway, several family-owned restaurants, and the Holy Guacamole food cart. The cart is open in the same gravel lot every Monday through Friday, and occasionally on Saturday. The official hours are 11am–6pm, though the menu informs patrons that these times fluctuate with the weather, and I’m sure with whatever else life throws Rudy’s way.
With a restaurant on wheels, Rudy is able to go where called. Once a week Rudy says he drives the cart to the East State Street Technology Park in Athens, Ohio, during the lunch hour. Rudy might also set up at Shade Winery, where guests can enjoy a taco or tamale with a glass of locally made wine. Rudy lists a few additional dates when he’ll be selling food; he can’t name all the events, but he knows the location and when to show up. Evelyn says that now people are calling them for work, not the other way around, and she and Rudy and Alexandro are all happy that the business is growing.
Holy Guacamole’s menu has the essentials of a rural Ohio Mexican restaurant, though Evelyn tells me they made a conscious decision to avoid labeling the food as exclusively “Mexican.” Rudy is originally from Guatemala. In addition to the pork burrito, which Rudy tells me is his most popular dish, the cart’s menu includes tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, and salads. Other items, like Rudy’s homemade tamales, are available as specials. Beef tongue, Rudy says, is a big hit when he has it. Other days he serves up fish tacos, or chorizo—a spicy pork sausage.
The secret to Rudy’s cooking, he tells me, is that all of his sauces, the verde, rojo, mole and habanero, are homemade. Rudy makes his own pico de gallo and guacamole as well. And while Holy Guacamole’s menu stays the same throughout the year, the best time to dine is absolutely in the summer months when fresh produce is readily available locally. Evelyn hands me a tri-fold for the Chesterhill Produce Auction, where Rudy drives to purchase tomatoes, onions, and peppers when they are in season. She says they also grow some of the produce and herbs themselves, though it’s far less than what the business requires.
Located in neighboring Morgan County, the Chesterhill Produce Auction provides Rudy with an alternative to buying food from what he simply refers to as “the truck.” Truck tomatoes, in the winter months, are likely to have arrived at Rudy’s cart from as far away as Mexico or Guatemala. But May through October, just outside of Chesterhill, Rudy and others bid on locally grown produce lots at wholesale prices. Managed by the member-based development organization, Rural Action, the Chesterhill Produce Auction connects regional growers with wholesale buyers such as schools, hospitals, restaurants, and in recent years, a growing number of food carts.
Rural Action has been instrumental in the cultivation of a vibrant and healthy local food economy in Southeast Ohio. Another key organization, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, is the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, or ACEnet. ACEnet runs a shared-use commercial kitchen incubator facility in Athens, where Rudy and more than 100 additional tenants cook, bake, bottle, and manufacture an impressive variety of food products that are sold locally, regionally, and internationally.
A typical day for Rudy starts at 6am inside the commercial kitchen facility at ACEnet; all of Rudy’s food prep happens here. And when the cart closes, Rudy returns to ACEnet with whatever leftovers he has and whatever dishes need to be washed. Although using ACEnet’s kitchen adds several miles to his daily commute, Rudy tells me that Holy Guacamole couldn’t operate without them. It would be impossible for Rudy to prepare everything he needed for his day inside of the cart, where there is barely enough space for the two of us to stand. Rudy says that he can only keep enough food on hand for three to five hours’ worth of taco, fajita, and burrito sales, and that sometimes he returns to ACEnet between lunch and dinner rushes to resupply.
Rudy says he would like to also bring his cart to uptown Athens, where he would be closer to ACEnet and to the 20,000 college students who flood the brick streets between classes. In The Plains, there’s little foot traffic, but Rudy has his regulars. Some chat with Rudy while he makes their food, others honk their horn when driving past. And Rudy says that the customers are absolutely the best part of his job.
As I’m leaving Holy Guacamole I notice a few yard signs displayed near the road. Like Rudy’s cart, there is a good chance you’d miss them if you didn’t already know they were there. “Fresh. Fast. Delicious.” one of them advertises.
And my personal favorite: “Hungry? Let’s Taco ’bout it.”
Visit ediblecolumbus.com for more of our favorite local food trucks in Athens this summer.
Where to Find a Taste of Athens Food Carts
Boogie on the Bricks
Saturday, June 20, Court Street, Athens, Ohio
Last Call at Ohio Brew Week
Saturday, July 18, Court Street, Athens, Ohio
Ohio Pawpaw Festival
September 11 to 13, Lake Snowden, Ohio
Final Fridays on the Square
June 26, July 31, August 28, September 25 Public Square, Nelsonville, Ohio