Customers approach Ray’s Lunch Wagon in Woodbine, NJ (Photo By Bruce Knoll Jr.)
There are dozens of “lunch wagons” across the Southern New Jersey area, but not many can claim they have daily customers who come from over 50 miles away to grab a breakfast sandwich or signature buffalo chicken cheesesteak.
Ray’s Lunch Wagon, situated on a small property at the intersection of Woodbine-Ocean View Road and County Route 610 in Cape May County is a popular stop by many area food eaters, both near and far, for the wagon’s wide variety of foods offered at a considerable price and built-to-order. Now operating in its fifth year, Ray’s Lunch sells thousands of sandwiches each year, and has daily customers from over 100 miles away.
Obviously with daily customers from such a considerable distance, the lunch wagon is catered towards a particular area of customers – truck drivers.
“I was a truck driver for 15 years, so I know how difficult it is to find a quick eat at an affordable price,” said the wagon’s owner, Ray Bierbrunner. “I’d always had an interest in cooking, and five years ago I decided I was tired of being on the road and I was going to give cooking a shot. I’ve been selling the best food in South Jersey ever since.”
When he first came off the road, Bierburnner saw a need for food for the area’s many trash-truck drivers and county workers who worked or travelled to and from the county’s landfill on Route 610 in Woodbine each day. So, after getting the okay from landfill officials, Bierbrunner was able to set up a lunch wagon just within the landfill’s entrance. The success came almost immediately.
“The first work was a bit slow; people didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “But after I got over the initial opening, and the guys began stopping as they went by to grab a sandwich or cold soda, it began to pick up. And the great thing about being at the county’s landfill was that trash workers from all over the county came to drop off trash, and if they liked the place, they told their friends – it really helped spread Ray’s Lunch all over the county.
Before long, people all over the county, and even those outside, were stopping in to get the food offered – from morning breakfast sandwiches, to cheeseburgers, hot dogs, sausage-pepper-and onion sandwiches- but right from the start, Bierburnner said, his buffalo chicken cheesesteak was something special.
“I had been offering chicken cheesesteak, and one day one of my customers asked if I had any hot sauce to put on it. I threw some Tabasco sauce on it, and the rest is history, as they say,” he said. People began asking for it, so much that I began to sell out of my chicken steaks each day. It got added to the menu, and it’s still one of the top sellers.”
When asked what makes the sandwich so special, Bierbrunner stated that he believes the quality of his chicken steaks, the mixture of sauce he uses, and the bleu cheese dressing that tops the sandwich makes it a winning combination.
Ray Bierbrunner prepares a sandwich for a customer at his lunch wagon located near the intersection of Route 550 & Route 610 in Woodbine, NJ(Photo by Bruce Knoll Jr.).
The lunch wagon became so popular, and so many customers who weren’t in the trash industry were stopping for a bite to eat, that a substantial number of cars were entering the dump each day specifically for Ray’s Lunch, and it was beginning to cause a hazard.
The director of the landfill asked Ray to relocate to another spot to avoid any safety issues elevated traffic may cause in the landfill, so Ray Lunch relocated to a small piece of property at the intersection just a quarter mile away from the landfill where a former book factory still stands.
Bierbrunner said the move was a blessing in disguise. “I wasn’t sure how my business would be affected by the move, but it turns out many of the trash drivers have to pass this intersection anyway,” he said. There was much more parking available, an electric input, and a prime position for the back-up of summertime traffic. It opened the door to a whole new range of customers that didn’t shy into the landfill for food.”
Now it his 4th year at the current location, Ray’s Lunch has a handful of dedicated everyday customers – and many aren’t ones who live just around the corner.
“Ray’s Lunch is a a tri-state lunch wagon must-eat,” said truck driver Dale Olsen, a Camden, Delaware native who does two 225-mile round trips each day from Delaware to the South Jersey area to transport sand and gravel products from one of Cape May County’s three mineral mining companies. “Since I begin running my double-round trip at four in the morning, it puts me to Ray’s at about 6:30. I can grab a coffee and a sandwich for the road as I head back to Delaware, and then by the time I make it back for my second trip, its 12:30 or 1 o’clock and I grab a sandwich. No place better in those 112 miles.”
Bierbrunner says he occasionally missing being on the road after hearing some stories from various truck drivers, but he wouldn’t trade his current job for anything. “My transition to full-time lunch wagon operator was defiantly the best choice I’ve ever made in my life, or at least the best after going the church,” he said. “I can come home at the end of the day and say I truly love what I’m doing at work each day, and that’s something not a lot of people can do.”
** Ray’s Lunch Wagon was just one of the many great places mentioned on Buffalo Bliss. For a complete listing of all the locations covered, see the map below.**