No matter how many individuals appear in the pages of each edition of Keys Weekly, there are always so many more of our community members who deserve to be recognized. In an effort to shine a spotlight on more of the incredible individuals who live and work in these islands, Keys Weekly is proud to spotlight our Neighbor of the Week feature, dedicated to celebrating a community member with each issue. This week’s neighbor always has the hook-up for Taco Tuesdays as he crafts the Mexican flavors behind Takeria La Palapa. Before his foray into the food truck world, Raul Ornelas spent 15 years in the Marathon community with stints at Sparky’s Landing, Publix and Angler & Ale. But with his wife Maria Teresa and kids Martin (8) and Leonel (6) at home, Ornelas knew he needed a change.
“I would work in the morning until 3 p.m. at Publix, and then 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Sparky’s,” he told the Weekly. “My wife told me, ‘You’re always working for somebody else. When are you going to have time for us?’”
With encouragement and an opportunity from Paradise Flavors owner Cesar Sandoval, Ornelas opened La Palapa in 2021 and never looked back.
Owner, Takeria La Palapa
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you? That I’m here! We don’t have a ton of signs.
The title of my autobiography would be? We’d have to start with my nickname, Red Bull, because I’m just a crazy guy.
What would you do if you won the lottery? Buy a house and a bigger truck so we could have more employees and have a bigger menu. There are a lot of people who need work.
What song do you play when you want to get hyped up? “Leve” by Cartel de Santa, a Mexican hip-hop song.
If there was one chore you could have taken away from you forever, what would it be? Cleaning my flat top. Everything I do, that’s the only thing I hate.
What’s one thing that’s on the menu, but you never want to try? Raw seafood. I like seafood, but not raw.
What’s the best piece of advice someone ever gave you? When my cousin passed away, my other cousin was a pastor in the church. He said, “Don’t be sad. God only takes the good people.”
What is the best and worst part of the Keys? The best part of the Keys for me is Curry Hammock with my family. The part I hate is the stupid drivers. I hate driving in the first place, and I really hate when other people drive like that.
If you could have lunch or dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? With my kids and my wife.
Finish this sentence: My wife would say I am… A good person, but so crazy. And that I’m so lazy doing housework.