Tuesday, December 9, 2014

First Taste of Slidin' Dirty's New Restaurant in Troy

I find myself very rarely eating at food trucks.  I just never happen to be near these trucks, and seeking them out at festivals, where I'd end up standing in line for a while only to then have to eat my meal standing up, doesn't ever sound particularly appealing.  But that's my problem.

Among Capital Region-area food trucks, Slidin' Dirty was always one near the top of my radar.  The slider menu was somewhat enticing, the side of avocado fries particularly intriguing.

So when I heard they were opening an actual restaurant on First Street in Troy, I knew it wouldn't be long before I'd finally try their food.  While I think there's promise in this restaurant, my first impression--albeit fairly soon after their opening and at a somewhat busy time--is that there are some things Slidin' Dirty needs to address in order to make sure their customers head home satisfied.  Here are ten observations:

1. The space is lovely, the seating cramped in places

You can check out some good pictures of Slidin' Dirty's attractive restaurant space on All Over Albany; on our visit, we also found some nice little holiday touches--the lamp posts inside the restaurant were wrapped in garland and bows.  It's really a striking space with all the beautiful old wood and big front windows, and I give credit to the owners for putting in the effort and money to make it look so good.

That said, it wasn't particularly comfortable where K and I were seated--at one of the five or six tables at the rear of the restaurant.  The bench I was on was a little too high for the table, but more importantly (as I didn't really mind feeling tall for an hour), these tables were crammed in too tightly.  Our server had trouble squeezing herself in just to take orders, and food deliveries were awkward as well.  I get the idea of trying to maximize seats to hold as many customers as possible (the restaurant isn't particularly large), but sometimes it's better to look at how to simply make your customers happy.  And from the grumbling coming from the tables to our right and left, it clearly wasn't just K and I that had a problem with this.

2. The food needs to be served in a more timely fashion

Saturday afternoon, shortly after opening, I can see how a kitchen could be in the weeds.  But this space isn't that large, as I said before, and the type of food being served isn't the type that should take a particularly long time to make.  So unless the kitchen is understaffed (and I would hope they would plan for decent crowds at lunchtime in Troy on a Saturday), there's no excuse for sliders and tacos to take 45 minutes to an hour to be delivered.

I hope this was just an aberration; I can understand that.  But I think you're walking a fine line as a restaurant when (from observing those around us) food that takes close to an hour to be served is eaten and gone within ten minutes.

Kelly and Michael are fans of Slidin' Dirty
3. The menu and important info should be online

Maybe it's just me, because I like to sit at home and study menus before I check a place out, but why would a new restaurant--particularly one which already has a website--not post info about their restaurant, including their menu, by the time they open?  As I write this, at least a couple weeks after they opened, Slidin' Dirty's menu is nowhere to be found.

Maybe I'm just annoyed because I decided to not take pictures and want to mention some specifics about the food, so now I have to use my brain a little more to remember things.

4. Even fried foods still need seasoning

The fried items we ordered--the avocado fries and the shrimp on K's po' boy slider--were fried well, with good crunch on the outside, and drained nicely, but they were lacking seasoning.  A little salt and pepper goes a long way.  Yeah, deep frying something is a good way to make something tasty, but seasoning is still important.

As it turns out, we weren't as big of fans of the avocado fries as we'd anticipated.  Something about the warmth of the avocado after being fried, and the taste of it in the breading, just didn't work for us.  There were some other fried appetizers (I can recall mac and cheese balls, among a few others) that we were sort of left wishing we'd ordered instead.

5. Stale/dry buns are a problem

This one goes into the "obviously" category, but I should point out that with sliders--which one doesn't want, I presume, to actually slide off the bun--this is especially troubling.  The buns at Slidin' Dirty the day we visited looked promising in terms of their size and makeup (rounded and puffy but not too big), but they tasted as if they'd been left sitting out too long.  They had that stale taste, and it also didn't seem to allow the juicy and saucy elements of their sliders to absorb into the buns.  This created an extra-messy eating experience.

6. Easy on the mustard

We noticed this on two of our sliders: Chinese hot mustard mixed into the sauce.  The result?  The taste of both was completely overtaken by the sinus-clearing mustard with a distinct, dominating taste.

7. Ask how customers would like burgers cooked

I'd also suggest that Slidin' Dirty's waitstaff ask customers how they would like their burgers cooked; while these are small burgers, they're still thick enough that temperature matters.  I'd say mine was cooked medium to medium-well.  This is good Kilcoyne beef being served--let it shine, if customers would like, at a more rare level.

Worse, in terms of taste, was K's ahi tuna slider, which was cooked all the way through, basically eliminating a lot of the good tuna taste many customers are looking for.

8. Spread more info on the quality of the proteins

Like I said, the menu indicates that the beef being used for sliders comes locally from Kilcoyne Farms and is of high quality.  The menu also mentions that good quality chicken and pork are being served, but leaves it at that.  Being so vague can leave some customers questioning what that really means.  I'd like to see Slidin' Dirty--if they are actually using chicken and pork of good quality, especially if it's local--disseminate that information more loudly and specifically, as Comfort Kitchen in Saratoga does (showing a whole list of where they're getting their ingredients from).

9. Nice side salads, but ditch the tortilla chips

It's good to be able to add on a simple arugula side salad for just $3--it makes one feel a little less guilty about the sliders and fried appetizers they're otherwise consuming.  With grated parmesan and a pleasant vinaigrette, I'd be satisfied.  But Slidin' Dirty also adds strips of tortilla chips to these salads, which feel totally out of place and unnecessary.  This isn't Pittsburgh, after all; I don't need a fried component to my salads.

10. Offer customers new/replacement dishes when you mess up

Again, just something we observed while waiting (maybe it's good we had all that time): A neighboring diner had their avocado fries dropped off the plate when they were served by a gentleman coming straight from the kitchen; they landed on a tray, which may or may not have been clean, and were picked up by the employee with his fingers and put back on the plate.  We later heard the diners mention this to their server, who just thanked them for letting her know.

We could tell these customers were a little put off by this, but the employee didn't think anything of it.  It's not necessarily something that would matter to all diners, but at the least, I think the employee needs to apologize, ask if the customers would like a replacement, and provide that or some other appetizer for free.  The little things can make a big difference to some people.

Final Thoughts: Okay, so some of these are pretty small points, but I figured that with a restaurant that's just recently opened, maybe it'd be helpful to put detailed feedback out there publicly.  I'm sure Slidin' Dirty will continue to be relatively popular, with a loyal following from the food truck; a good location and attractive space; and a bar with a handful of solid, local beers on tap.

But I also wasn't left feeling terribly enthused about a return trip after our first experience, despite the menu and setting being right up my alley.  Troy needs more quality downtown eateries, particularly ones open past 6 or 7 p.m., and Slidin' Dirty could help to fill that void.  I don't think it does yet.  The aforementioned Comfort Kitchen might be a good model to follow, though they don't do table service.  Then again, maybe this type of food is better in that more casual setting?  I suppose I'll just have to wait and see if Slidin' Dirty can prove otherwise.

Slidin' Dirty is located at 9 First Street in Troy, NY


  1. I had a similar experience a couple weeks ago. The bun and burger cook temp needs to be addressed if they want to do well. Mine were the same way and very underwhelming.

  2. Hi, Tim Taney here (owner of SD). First off I'm a fan of the blog and appreciate the honest feedback from you and your commenter. We definitely still have some kinks to work out with the new staff, new kitchen and new style of service. Some new things we've tried we feel have worked while others have not. We will take this feedback and use it as a coaching tool. I hope you'll give us another shot after we've settled in. Thanks again, keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks for the kind words and response, Tim. I hope my post came across as fair--it definitely comes from a place of wanting you guys to succeed because I can see just how hard you've worked in getting the restaurant off the ground and rehabbing the space so nicely.

      And honestly, compared to a lot of other places I've critiqued in the past, I feel like you guys are in a good position to get everything clicking--all the issues I mentioned feel like reasonable kinks for a restaurant to get worked out. Good luck with it, and I'm looking forward to checking things out again in the future.

  3. Glad to see this commentary and glad to see owner Tim Taney checking in. My only experience with Slidin' Dirty was at a food truck festival and I was underwhelmed. The food truck craze has given purveyors a free pass at serving fairly ordinary fare with the added element of novelty. I do hope to make it down to the Troy location and hope to be pleasantly surprised when I dig in.

  4. Not impressed! Sliders bland and dry. Service was ok. Not impressed at all.