Sliding into the food truck scene: Meet the Knight Slider
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • September 12, 2012 @ 8:55am
There’s a new food truck patrolling the streets of Western New York, a sleek black and red vehicle wafting scents of frying bacon and sizzling burgers through the air. A two-person team, Ayoub “Mike” Abboud and partner Remi Qarmout, splits duties of handling the cash register, chatting with customers and churning out sliders—mini-burgers—at a rapid rate.
Named after the ‘80s TV show “Knight Rider”—starring David Hasselhoff, of course—the Knight Rider is the ninth official food truck in Buffalo. While many Buffalo current food truck owners were raised in the Queen City, Abboud’s journey to this stage of his career was far more circuitous.
If you told Abboud in 2003 that, less than a decade later, he’d be running a slider food truck in Buffalo, he’d probably shake his head and laugh at you.
Then, a recent political science graduate of the University at Buffalo, the Jordan-born Abboud held a position in New York City as a financial planner. When the economy’s downward spiral forced layoffs, Abboud floated between jobs in New York City and Boston for several years before—like many people who’ve left Buffalo and a stay—he realized he missed Buffalo.
“I truly love the place,” Abboud, who prefers to go by “Mike” because it’s simpler than “Ayoub”, said in a phone conversation Tuesday. “[Buffalo] is peaceful, and it has a good market for food trucks.”
Throughout 2010 and into 2011, Abboud considered a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Buffalo, but in his research, he stumbled upon the food truck legal saga that was unfolding in Western New York. Intrigued, Abboud considered the prospect of a food truck and watched as the vendor regulations were passed in January 2012. Once food trucks were no longer viewed as “outlaws,” Abboud took it upon himself to convert a used truck beginning in February.
Unlike his predecessors, Abboud’s dealings with the city were fairly smooth. “[The City of Buffalo] was welcoming—the other trucks paved the way as far as relations with the city are concerned.” Once his permit was purchased and inspections were complete, the Knight Slider debuted Sept. 4—the day after Labor Day.
If you press Abboud, he’ll admit that he began working in restaurants at age 13 and, coupled with the knowledge his partner Qarmout gathered from Johnson & Wales Culinary School in Florida, the duo is well-prepared to handle the rigors of gourmet street food.
There’s pride in local food sourcing, too, as Abboud buys his secret meat mixture from Pellicano’s in North Tonawanda, local produce from the North Tonawanda Farmer’s Market and Gino’s Bakery on Hertel. The Knight Slider’s commissary is at St. John’s Grace Episcopal Church, 51 Colonial Circle, Buffalo, where the food truck donates its leftovers each day—assuming they don’t run out. Interestingly, a priest at the church also makes the pita bread for the 12 O’Clock Slider (falafel, below) by hand.
Currently, Abboud trots out a lineup of five primary sliders, almost all with references to the Knight Rider TV show: the Classic Slider ($2.50, below), the 12 O’Clock Slider, the Kitt (bacon and bleu cheese, header photo), the Hoff and the “I Need a Break” Slider (all $3.50). The owner, however, plans to adjust the menu at least once a week, and he’s already flipping specials that have included an eggplant slider and one with a fried egg on top. There have been plans laid for a Seafood Slider featuring scallops, too.
Like “bacon jam” at the Roaming Buffalo and “Rocket Sauce” at Lloyd Taco Truck, Abboud has a few impressive condiments of his own. The hummus on the 12 O’Clock is made by hand, while the parmesan-bleu cheese concoction below the bacon on the Kitt Slider is believed to be the first of its kind in the world, Abboud believes.
With the culinary freedom that a customizable dish like sliders provides, Abboud and Qarmout have essentially a blank slate for their creative aspirations. Like Buffalo’s present stable of food trucks, the Knight Slider has plans to visit Larkin—where Buffalo.com visited them Tuesday—Roswell Park, the First Niagara Center, Northpointe in Amherst and other locations on a rotating basis. While most nights are currently reserved for catering, Abboud has considered vending spots for the nightlife as well. The Knight Slider currently only takes cash, although a credit card machine is in the works.
Also, Buffalo.com’s S.J. and Katie have coined the Knight Slider dance (below), to be done only when outside the Knight Slider. Also noteworthy: the truck was blaring “Call Me, Maybe” as we walked by after eating in Larkin Square.