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SD Sliders: dream business

“I would love to see San Diego Sliders in every city across the country.”

Big Kahuna: not cheap, but a bun of plenty.
Big Kahuna: not cheap, but a bun of plenty.

“Sure, I went to culinary school. The School of You Tube.”

You’ve got to hand it to Dale. He seems to have single-handedly created this San Diego Empire of the Small Burger. Right now, I’m looking at “the world’s largest selection of sliders,” created by a guy who’s never run a restaurant before this. So yeah, it’s not just a choice between BLT and cheeseburger sliders any more. How’s about a garlic bread meatball slider? Or a Hangover Cure (ketchup, mayo, bacon, American cheese, onions, egg)? Or Kimchee with bulgogi? Or BBQ tri-tip, or stuffed blue cheese? Or chipotle salmon? Or avocado toast? Or Hawaiian pulled pork? Or soft shell crab? Or chicken and waffles? Sliders all!

Owner Dale Stansberry and assistant Kaylani hold up a couple of crazy shakes.

Dale Stansberry’s list goes on and on and on. Forty-eight sliders long right now. Came across him just up from Crab City (see last week’s column). “Actually, I own a body shop in El Cajon,” Dale says. “I’ve been painting custom cars for almost 25 years. I still have it. Now my sister runs it for me. In 2016-17, I wanted to try something that I could duplicate. Pass on to my kids. I looked at myself at60-70 years old, still painting cars? So I was trying to create something for my family. I would love to see a San Diego Sliders in every city all across the country.” So far, he has two sliders outlets, plus one food truck. “I have six kids, aged 4 to 21. This started when I would make them school lunches, and their friends were like, ‘Can we buy this off of you?’ So I made this Hawaiian pulled pork slider. That was the one that I first sampled out and tested. And friends said, ‘You’ve got something special here.’”

Bun buddies: Cost a Jackson, but worth it.

Then came the dream. “I actually had a dream [of opening my own restaurant]. And in it, my wife said, ‘How can you think about opening up a restaurant when you haven’t been working in a restaurant since you were a teenager?’ But I watch a lot of TV, programs like Bar Rescue, and Restaurant Impossible, and I’m like, ‘I think I could do this. A lot of multi-tasking, memory.’ But in the dream, my wife said, ‘If you want to open up your own restaurant, you need to go get a job. In a restaurant.’ So I got a job at a deli, and ended up buying it from them. We had a grand opening, and I woke up and said, ‘I’m doing it.’ And my wife said, ‘Don’t.’ And my parents and my sister said, ‘No! You’ve got a body shop. That takes up enough of your time. How in the world are you going to have the time?’ But I hate to be the person who stands at the edge of something and lives his life saying, ‘What if?’ So I signed the lease for a place in Chula Vista, a sub-lease inside a bar, like this, and I brought in my parents and my wife and my sister, and every single one of them said, ‘Don’t do it.’ But I signed the lease, did it. And shortly after, everyone jumped on: ‘We love it!’ Now, three years later, I have two places, this here and one in Pacific Beach, and a food truck that has saved our butt over the pandemic.”

Place

San Diego Sliders

1985 National Avenue, San Diego

Impressive story. I order up a couple of sliders - they have a “Tour de Slider” deal where you get two for $11.99. Saves you a buck. I ask Janell, the gal at the counter, for a lobster slider, one of the choices. Love the idea of a super luxury item in a lowly slider. It’s not that cheap, $8.99 for each slider, but hey, holiday season and all. It gets a bump in flavor from lemon zest, paprika, and the lobster aioli he makes. “We poach the lobster and then quickly deep-fry it,” Dale adds.

Customer Rachel deciding where to begin on her German Chocolate crazy shake.

The other slider I get is more for its colors. It’s called the Big Kahuna, named after Sean, a Hawaiian friend of Dale’s who passed away. It’s basically a big ring of pineapple on top, bacon, beef patty, tomato slice, and lettuce on a nice golden-domed bun. And, oh yeah! The pineapple sweetness reminds me of some spectacular-looking milkshakes I see they make right here. What the heck: ’tis the time of year! I get one, a “Birthday Cake Shake” ($8.99), and then, once I’ve sucked that dry, a Bubblegum ($9.99). Taste about the same. You pay for all the frou-frou. Standard shakes run $2.99. For candy bar shakes like, say, Reese’s, think $5. For the “crazy” milkshakes, like the one webbed in cotton candy, or the strawberry cheesecake, think ten bucks. I only do because it’s, well, the season. Can’t say mine don’t taste good, though. Secret to a good milk shake? “Real ice cream,” says Dale. “Good milkshake’s like a good handshake: kind of firm.”

Lobster, aioli, slider-sized bun, winter sun.

Honestly, the lobster’s really nice, but the Big Kahuna just comes through with more flavor, and you can’t beat the good ol’ sweet-umami pineapple-bacon-beef juxtaposition. Perfect with the shake. Next time, though, Filipino Breakfast slider, which Dale — who gets his Filipino side from his mom, who still helps out preparing the Filipino sliders — says is basically corned beef, onions, tomato, egg, rice, Hawaiian bread.

Of course, we’re sharing the space with Attitude Brewing here. Heck, this being the season, if I wasn’t working tonight, I’d add one of Attitude Brewing’s stouts to the menu. But this has been a wonderful surprise, right here on National. I’d bet Dale’s future grandkids are going to have quite a business to inherit.

  • The Place: SD Sliders, 1985 National Avenue, Barrio Logan, 858-412-4490
  • Hours: 11am-10pm daily
  • Prices: Garlic bread meatball slider, $5.99; Hangover Cure slider, $5.99; Kimchee slider, $5.99; sloppy joe, $5.99; prime rib, $7.99; lobster, $8.99; portobello mushroom, $5.99;
  • BBQ tri-tip, $5.99; stuffed blue cheese, $5.99; Steak’n egg slider, $5.99; chipotle salmon, $5.99; Hawaiian pulled pork, $5.99; soft shell crab, 8.99; eggplant parmesan, $5.99
  • Buses: 901, 929
  • Nearest Bus Stops: National and Cesar E. Chavez (901); Main Street and Chavez (929);
  • Trolley: Blue Line
  • Nearest Trolley Stop: Barrio Logan
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“Why do I have to be part of your regular crew to have fun?”
Big Kahuna: not cheap, but a bun of plenty.
Big Kahuna: not cheap, but a bun of plenty.

“Sure, I went to culinary school. The School of You Tube.”

You’ve got to hand it to Dale. He seems to have single-handedly created this San Diego Empire of the Small Burger. Right now, I’m looking at “the world’s largest selection of sliders,” created by a guy who’s never run a restaurant before this. So yeah, it’s not just a choice between BLT and cheeseburger sliders any more. How’s about a garlic bread meatball slider? Or a Hangover Cure (ketchup, mayo, bacon, American cheese, onions, egg)? Or Kimchee with bulgogi? Or BBQ tri-tip, or stuffed blue cheese? Or chipotle salmon? Or avocado toast? Or Hawaiian pulled pork? Or soft shell crab? Or chicken and waffles? Sliders all!

Owner Dale Stansberry and assistant Kaylani hold up a couple of crazy shakes.

Dale Stansberry’s list goes on and on and on. Forty-eight sliders long right now. Came across him just up from Crab City (see last week’s column). “Actually, I own a body shop in El Cajon,” Dale says. “I’ve been painting custom cars for almost 25 years. I still have it. Now my sister runs it for me. In 2016-17, I wanted to try something that I could duplicate. Pass on to my kids. I looked at myself at60-70 years old, still painting cars? So I was trying to create something for my family. I would love to see a San Diego Sliders in every city all across the country.” So far, he has two sliders outlets, plus one food truck. “I have six kids, aged 4 to 21. This started when I would make them school lunches, and their friends were like, ‘Can we buy this off of you?’ So I made this Hawaiian pulled pork slider. That was the one that I first sampled out and tested. And friends said, ‘You’ve got something special here.’”

Bun buddies: Cost a Jackson, but worth it.

Then came the dream. “I actually had a dream [of opening my own restaurant]. And in it, my wife said, ‘How can you think about opening up a restaurant when you haven’t been working in a restaurant since you were a teenager?’ But I watch a lot of TV, programs like Bar Rescue, and Restaurant Impossible, and I’m like, ‘I think I could do this. A lot of multi-tasking, memory.’ But in the dream, my wife said, ‘If you want to open up your own restaurant, you need to go get a job. In a restaurant.’ So I got a job at a deli, and ended up buying it from them. We had a grand opening, and I woke up and said, ‘I’m doing it.’ And my wife said, ‘Don’t.’ And my parents and my sister said, ‘No! You’ve got a body shop. That takes up enough of your time. How in the world are you going to have the time?’ But I hate to be the person who stands at the edge of something and lives his life saying, ‘What if?’ So I signed the lease for a place in Chula Vista, a sub-lease inside a bar, like this, and I brought in my parents and my wife and my sister, and every single one of them said, ‘Don’t do it.’ But I signed the lease, did it. And shortly after, everyone jumped on: ‘We love it!’ Now, three years later, I have two places, this here and one in Pacific Beach, and a food truck that has saved our butt over the pandemic.”

Place

San Diego Sliders

1985 National Avenue, San Diego

Impressive story. I order up a couple of sliders - they have a “Tour de Slider” deal where you get two for $11.99. Saves you a buck. I ask Janell, the gal at the counter, for a lobster slider, one of the choices. Love the idea of a super luxury item in a lowly slider. It’s not that cheap, $8.99 for each slider, but hey, holiday season and all. It gets a bump in flavor from lemon zest, paprika, and the lobster aioli he makes. “We poach the lobster and then quickly deep-fry it,” Dale adds.

Customer Rachel deciding where to begin on her German Chocolate crazy shake.

The other slider I get is more for its colors. It’s called the Big Kahuna, named after Sean, a Hawaiian friend of Dale’s who passed away. It’s basically a big ring of pineapple on top, bacon, beef patty, tomato slice, and lettuce on a nice golden-domed bun. And, oh yeah! The pineapple sweetness reminds me of some spectacular-looking milkshakes I see they make right here. What the heck: ’tis the time of year! I get one, a “Birthday Cake Shake” ($8.99), and then, once I’ve sucked that dry, a Bubblegum ($9.99). Taste about the same. You pay for all the frou-frou. Standard shakes run $2.99. For candy bar shakes like, say, Reese’s, think $5. For the “crazy” milkshakes, like the one webbed in cotton candy, or the strawberry cheesecake, think ten bucks. I only do because it’s, well, the season. Can’t say mine don’t taste good, though. Secret to a good milk shake? “Real ice cream,” says Dale. “Good milkshake’s like a good handshake: kind of firm.”

Lobster, aioli, slider-sized bun, winter sun.

Honestly, the lobster’s really nice, but the Big Kahuna just comes through with more flavor, and you can’t beat the good ol’ sweet-umami pineapple-bacon-beef juxtaposition. Perfect with the shake. Next time, though, Filipino Breakfast slider, which Dale — who gets his Filipino side from his mom, who still helps out preparing the Filipino sliders — says is basically corned beef, onions, tomato, egg, rice, Hawaiian bread.

Of course, we’re sharing the space with Attitude Brewing here. Heck, this being the season, if I wasn’t working tonight, I’d add one of Attitude Brewing’s stouts to the menu. But this has been a wonderful surprise, right here on National. I’d bet Dale’s future grandkids are going to have quite a business to inherit.

  • The Place: SD Sliders, 1985 National Avenue, Barrio Logan, 858-412-4490
  • Hours: 11am-10pm daily
  • Prices: Garlic bread meatball slider, $5.99; Hangover Cure slider, $5.99; Kimchee slider, $5.99; sloppy joe, $5.99; prime rib, $7.99; lobster, $8.99; portobello mushroom, $5.99;
  • BBQ tri-tip, $5.99; stuffed blue cheese, $5.99; Steak’n egg slider, $5.99; chipotle salmon, $5.99; Hawaiian pulled pork, $5.99; soft shell crab, 8.99; eggplant parmesan, $5.99
  • Buses: 901, 929
  • Nearest Bus Stops: National and Cesar E. Chavez (901); Main Street and Chavez (929);
  • Trolley: Blue Line
  • Nearest Trolley Stop: Barrio Logan
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