By Deb Holland | RapidCityJournal.com
Tim Nevadomski has been preparing for his current career all his life.
His dad owned an Italian restaurant, and he began working at the family restaurant when he was 12. He found jobs in restaurants while in college and has worked for three national restaurant chains in his adult life.
“I swore when I was younger that I wouldn’t end up working in a restaurant,” Nevadomski said.
Well, he was partially correct. The food truck he now owns isn’t technically a restaurant; it’s a restaurant on wheels.
Nevadomski said he loves the concept of food trucks. So, when his wife, Susan Olsen, sold her coffee shops in Rapid City, he began planning his new career path.
“We had saved some money in anticipation and were hoping this would be a good jumping-off point,” he said.
He announced in April on Twitter his culinary intention — “Rapid City’s first food truck coming soon.”
The first day of business for Nevadomski and his Curbside Cuisine & Catering was June 23 in Rapid City at 1350 Concourse Lane, just west of ASI.
Nevadomski admits business has been slow, but he has gained a following on Facebook and Twitter. And those faithful fans follow his posts — and the truck — all over town.
“I stalk him on Facebook,” said Nicole Jaeck, who recently found “Curbie” (Nevadomski’s nickname for his food truck) at the Black Hills Farmers Market. Jaeck grew up at Huntington Beach, Calif., and enjoyed the gastronomic delights of food trucks there before moving to Rapid City.
“I’m obsessed with food trucks,” she said. “I love the innovative way they take things that we may hesitate combining and make them into
yummy things we want to eat.”
At the Farmers Market, Nicole and her husband, Tory, enjoyed Curbside’s jambalaya quesadilla — a tortilla filled with Cajun rice, andouille sausage, shrimp, vegetables and cheese — along with bread pudding croquettes.
They both rolled their eyes and shared a moan of approval after tasting the food.
“These are amazing,” Tory said of the fried bread pudding balls.
Nicole said she was won over to Nevadomski’s food when she ate the Napa sliders.
“I talked about them for days after,” she said. “I like knowing what’s in my food. And, these had such amazing flavors.”
But Nicole was stumped as to how Nevadomski created such flavor in his little burgers.
Nevadomski says he starts with ground beef infused with feta cheese, then adds sauteed onions and spices. The burgers are served on a yeast roll with a tomato-basil aioli and fresh spinach. He strives to make a culinary statement with each creation on the menu, providing layers of flavor.
Janet Labonte of Rapid City ordered the mini potato pancakes with a sour cream/dill dipping sauce from Curbside while her husband, Mike, enjoyed the breakfast pizza.
“It’s crispy and has lots of flavor,” Janet said.
Nevadomski’s menu items came from a focus group gathering. He invited family and friends to their house for a trial run of service from the food truck. They gave the attendees a survey sheet to gauge their attitudes about the food.
From there, they honed the menu they offer at their stops around Rapid City.
Since the trial run, Curbside has settled in to weekly appearances at the Black Hills Farmers Market and near Rapid Spa on Wednesdays and Fridays. He has set up shop at the West Boulevard Summer Festival and Hills Alive, and he caters.
Nevadomski did research about food trucks before deciding to buy a used truck from a distributor in Florida. The truck was a blank slate in the interior, so Nevadomski worked with the company to build the kitchen right for him.
“I based it on what my menu mix was going to be and how many guests I thought I would be serving in an hour,” he said.
The 22-foot truck has a 16-foot by 8-foot kitchen complete with full-size fridge, sink, prep table, fryer and flat-top grill.
The propane-powered kitchen also has a salamander broiler, which he uses to give his flatbread pizzas and other items a professional-looking browning at the end of cooking. Salamanders have overhead infrared heating elements that impart very high heat.
Nevadomski said he still fights the ignorance of some customers who only equate restaurants on wheels with county fair foods.
“We’ve had people come up and ask if we have funnel cakes,” he said. “We’re more high-end than that.”