101 Best Food Truck Feature: Rickshaw Stop

When Sameer was laid off for the second time in 2011, the family took a chance to be trailblazers in the San Antonio food truck scene. Thus, The Rickshaw Stop was born. Using secret family recipes and a keen knowledge of what it takes to have a successful business, Sameer and his family set out on a new adventure. Serving unique Pakistani dishes such as kebabs and crispy-triangle samosas, this truck came in at number 7 on our list of 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2013. We caught up with owners Meagan and Sameer Siddiqui to talk about how they got started, their truck, and of course, their passion for Pakistani food. 

When did you launch your truck?
April 2011

What was the inspiration for going into this business?
When Sameer was studying business in college, the Pakistani dishes he brought from home were very popular with his roommates and friends. He always thought that the unique flavors would appeal to a wider audience. During the recession in 2011, when Sameer was laid off for the second time, the family took that as "opportunity knocking" and we decided to try our hand at being trailblazers in the emerging San Antonio food truck scene. With Meagan and Sameer's strong business backgrounds and the cooking skills (and secret family recipes) possessed by his mother, aunt, and uncle, we decided as a family that they were ready for the adventure and haven't looked back. The best part about running Rickshaw Stop is that the family absolutely loves what we do.

What's the story behind the origin of your truck's name?
In Karachi, Pakistan, where Sameer's family is from, the auto Rickshaw is a popular form of transportation; the "stop" is where you get picked up or dropped off, much like a taxi stand. Since the cuisine is gourmet Pakistani street food, the name seemed to be a perfect fit. 

What's the inspiration for your cuisine and recipes?
Our family. All of the recipes have been handed down through generations. The challenge when we launched Rickshaw Stop was putting those family recipes on paper because, like many families, many of the recipes had never been written down and the directions were often "a pinch of this" and "a little bit of that." We all worked together to perfect the recipes by agreeing upon specific measurements for all ingredients so that we could create consistent, high quality food every day. 

If you haven't already, would you ever go brick-and-mortar?
We have talked about it, but it isn't something we are considering right now. We like the freedom that the food truck set up allows us; however, we are interested in expanding our brand and are also considering ways to do that in the future either with additional trucks in other locations or possibly franchisees. 

What's your signature dish? Is it also your most popular dish?
Everything on the menu is popular, but Rickshaw Stop is known for our scrumptious kebabs and crispy-triangle samosas. Our kebabs are served taco-style inside of flaky, buttery paratha bread and come in your choice of Beef Bihari or Chicken Boti Tikka. Our Samosas are filled with your choice of seasoned ground beef, ground chicken or veggie (potatoes) and then they're deep fried to perfection. Since the truck is located in San Antonio, Texas we often tell people new to Rickshaw Stop that the samosa is most similar to the Mexican empanada. The fun thing for people is that the menu has so many options, that it can be a new experience each time you visit.

How did you come up with your truck's design? Is there a designer you'd like to give a shout-out to?
The truck design came mostly from Sameer and Meagan. Hand-sanding and polishing the outside of the truck took about 60 hours; they were going for a 1950's hot rod look with the polished chrome. One of the cool features is the reverse lettering. The polished chrome actually comes through, instead of covering the entire truck with a vinyl wrap like most other food trucks do.

Does your truck have a vanity license plate? And if so, what does it say?
Yes — "KEBABS"

What model truck do you have?
It's a 1977 Chevy, which happens to also be the year Sameer was born. Our customers lovingly call it "The Silver Bullet."

What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to get into the food truck business?
Be ready for the unexpected. Be ready to work hard and work long hours. Learn to pay close attention to the weather and plan accordingly. Owning/operating a food truck is a lot harder than you think; it's a labor of love — definitely not a "get rich quick" business.

What's the most challenging thing about running your food truck?
The biggest challenge right now is the south Texas heat. When it's 100+ degrees outside, it's about 120-130 degrees inside the truck. Our crew drinks a lot of water and Gatorade during the summer months to stay hydrated. Another challenge for us is the fact that most people have not eaten Pakistani food, so we typically describe our kebabs as "tacos" or "wraps" and we refer to our samosas as Pakistani "empanadas" or "egg rolls" to help make the unfamiliar more familiar. 

Any new upcoming dishes planned that you can tell us about?
We just launched a new "Chicken Korma" dish in response to our customers requesting a gluten-free menu option. We've sold out every time we've had it on the menu! We are also testing our version of chicken wings for an upcoming partnership with a local craft brewery — stay tuned for more details.

Any new plans on the horizon you can share?
We are working to expand the catering side of our business.  We already have a number of wonderful corporate clients and several private events such as weddings and parties coming up in the fall.

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?  
Let's just say we definitely go the extra mile for our customers, no matter what.  We had booked an exciting open house with one our favorite breweries. They were providing the beer; Rickshaw Stop was on tap to provide the menu. We had the event all planned out, but our 1977 Chevy truck (our pride and joy, but thankfully not our only form of transportation) had other ideas.  As we were on our way to feed the 300 people expected at the event, our truck gave out. Yes, she sputtered, stammered and eventually she flat out stopped. Luckily, good karma was on our side and the luck of a great tow truck operator was in the cards.  As soon as we told him about our dilemma (we had somewhere to be and it required us and the truck to get there fast), he didn't skip a beat.  Our amazing tow truck driver towed the truck to the party and we followed behind. We arrived with bit more fanfare than normal, given the tow truck. But once we told them what happened, we all had a good laugh and the evening turned out just how we'd planned.  It is just proof that Rickshaw Stop never stops... we strive to be the best, to give our customers the best, and we'll fight like heck to make it happen.