Ray's Drive In
Ray’s Drive In has been open in Lufkin, Texas since October of 1959.
“Ray’s Drive In is a family-owned business and it’s operated in Lufkin, Texas for 60 years,” said Lawana Ray Johnson, the current owner. “In 1959, J.C. and Opal Ray purchased a drive in on Timberland Drive, they called it Ray’s Drive In. My husband [Jerry] and his brother [Billy] became full partners in that business on or around the 1970s. In 1995 my husband and I purchased the business from the family. And we’ve been making hamburgers out of this location for 60 years, this was the original location.”
When Lawana’s mother-in-law and father-in-law purchased the drive in her Jerry was only 12 years old.
“His first job was stacking Coke bottles,” said Lawana. “So he grew into the business over the years.”
So, along with her husband, Lawana grew into the business as well. Jerry passed away in 2012 Lawana took over the family business with the same tenacity to do everything the same way her husband and his family did. And she makes sure the quality and high-standards of the customer experience don’t change.
Though it’s no longer 1959, Ray’s Drive In has stood the test of time, and has become a tradition in Lufkin and all of East Texas.
“It’s a pretty big responsibility whenever you think about it,” said Lawanna. “The food I think is the draw in card but we haven’t changed. We are still the same. We’re doing things exactly like they did in 1959.”
Lawana went on to add that they still get the meat brought to them every morning. The tomatoes are sliced, the onions are chopped, the lettuce is all done every morning.
“Everything is fresh, and that has been a quality that has been quite difficult to maintain, but I insist on it,” said Lawana.
Though much has stayed the same, there have been a few changes to the menu over the year.
“We’ve added a lot of stuff to it, but you have to,” said Lawana. “We do gluten free, we added taco salads, we’ve added catfish baskets, we’ve had to add some things. But when it gets right down to it, we’re just really good food, and we’re still doing it the way they’ve always done it.”
And one thing that makes Ray’s Drive In unique, or rather timeless, is their drive-in capability.
“If you’ve never sat in your car and had a car hop wait on you, you need to do that,” said Lawana. “That should be on everybody’s bucket list.”
But if you prefer eating indoors, you’ll find a laid-back dining experience.
“We call it Retro Redneck because we’re trying to be a little edgy, but at the same time we’ve got cow hide stools,” said Lawana.
I think the vibe here fits us. We’re all about classic cars, we still do a car show the First Saturday of every month. We redid the dining room in 2014, and we built the patio which added 45 seats. We’re just trying to make it feel homey. We want people to be comfortable.”
And whether you’re eating along or with a crowd, there’s seating accommodations for everybody.
But like any well-run restaurant, behind the food and the customer experience are the employees.
“I’m addicted to my employees,” said Lawana. “They’re the reason I get up every morning. The reason I still do it. Actually I have third generation people working for me. The grandmother is still, her grandkids are here, her children are here.”
“It’s just a tradition, it’s something that if you’re in the Angelina County area and you’ve never been here, shame on you,” said Lawana. “It’s worth the trip because the food is worth it. Ray’s Drive In is an awesome place to come, and visit, and see and experience!”
COVID 19 UPDATE: Ray’s Drive In has modified their hours to 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday. They also posted the following on Facebook on March 20th: “Car hop and drive thru will remain open. Dining room will be closed to comply with the governors orders. We hope all of our customers remain safe and healthy during this time. We hope to get back to normal as soon as it is safe to do so. Much Love!”
Ray’s Drive In is located at 420 North Timberland Drive in Lufkin.
Their regular business hours (not in effect right now) are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. They’re closed on Sundays.
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