From Corporate Finance to Bacon Baby Burgers in Chicago
An interview with Nida Rodriguez founder of The Slide Ride, one of The Daily Meal's 101 best food trucks in America
The self-declared original slider truck in Chicago is owned by Nida Rodriguez, who also serves as executive chef. The truck features a rotating menu of sliders, and past hits have included a classic rib-eye with provolone, caramelized onion, and horseradish; and a caprese with tomato and mozzarella. In case you were wondering, this is no one-trick pony, The Slide Ride has black pepper Cheddar mac, Sriracha Buffalo chicken, and turtle brownies, among other things. The truck has done some really great stuff, enough to land it on the 2012 list of the 101 Best Food Trucks in America.
Read More: 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2012
After nine years in corporate finance, Rodriguez launched her Chevy Step Van in June of 2011. In that time she's explored different cuisines through sliders, figured out what she'd like her truck's vanity plate to say, and started looking for a space to go brick-and-mortar. But she's still a hardcore food truck enthusiast, in fact she's looking to also expand to have a fleet of Slide Rides. In this interview with Rodriguez, find out more about The Slide Ride, including that time she had to put out a fire with iced mountain water.
What was the inspiration for going into this business?
A love of cooking and feeding people. I spent nine years in corporate finance and this was my way to break into the culinary field.
What's the story behind the origin of your truck's name?
Truck's name is The Slide Ride and we serve sliders. They just sounded good together.
How did you come up with your truck's design? Is there a designer you'd like to give a shout-out to?
I was going for a '50s diner meets Sex and the City feel. I knew I wanted the truck to stand out and was set on the diner pink, also I wanted to give tribute to the fact that we are mobile so we put the waitress on skates. I worked with Julio Russo; he was great at putting my vision on paper.
Does your truck have a vanity license plate?
No, but I'd like one that says "Slide."
What's your signature dish? Is it also your most popular dish?
We change the menu seasonally, but our top-seller (and something we won't take off the menu) is our Bacon Baby Burger — Angus beef, melted Cheddar, brown sugar bacon, and mustard-caramelized onions.
What's the inspiration for your cuisine and recipes?
We try to explore many different ethnic cuisines with our food. Basically taking a familiar dish, putting our spin on it, and making it into a slider.
What's the most challenging thing about running your food truck?
Dealing with the restrictive regulations in Chicago
Would you ever go brick-and-mortar?
Would love to and have been looking into spaces...
What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to get into the food truck business?
Have a great concept and get ready to work!
Any new upcoming dishes planned that you can tell us about?
I planned a trip to Hawaii and have been obsessed with SPAM lately. The chefs designed a great Hawaiian burger with Angus beef, crispy SPAM, jalapeño pineapple glaze, grilled pineapple, and red onion slaw on a Hawaiian roll. We did a contest on Twitter to the name the burger — the "Hulapeno" burger won.
Any new plans on the horizon you can share?
Trying to find a storefront so we can have a full time home. Definitely would like to add more trucks to the fleet. And I have been getting into teaching culinary classes which has been fun.
Lots of things happen when running a restaurant, and that probably goes double on the road. As such, be it weird, funny, good, or bad, what's one superlative or particularly outstanding moment or story that's ever occurred with your truck be it with customers, in the kitchen, or just in general?
I think the one that stands out the most is the generator on the truck setting fire. Of course it was right above the gas tank. We were serving customers and smelled smoke but couldn't quite figure out where it was coming from. I got out of the truck and saw a small fire underneath it. There was a moment when I couldn't quite figure out if I should scream and run or try to put it out. I ended up putting it out with our bottles of iced mountain water.
Arthur Bovino is The Daily Meal's executive editor. Follow Arthur on Twitter.
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