Eric Jackson and Rina Parilla Garcia, the ownership duo of Slide Thru #FAM in Norfolk, Virginia’s Selden Market, have always been driven by artistic expression.
Eric moved to Virginia from Augusta, Georgia as an artist and recording engineer. As a rapper, he was known as “Cool Hand Hope,” and he also is the former front man for a band called “The Alternative.” To supplement his musical aspirations, he took a job at the PF Changs in Virginia Beach. That is when he met Rina, who also worked at the restaurant and also had a musical background. Coming from a musically talented family, Rina has experience as an acoustic R&B signer and guitarist. She regularly performed as part of the Hip Hop band “J. Pharaoh & the Manhattan Project,” as well as acoustic spoken word group “Parks & Wrecks.”
Rina and Eric instantly bonded, and their families grew close through weekly get-togethers and dinners at her parents’ house that they dubbed “Fam Jams.” Through these weekly events, Eric became interested in cooking Filipino food, and Rina’s parents were more than willing to teach him. Eric’s love for cooking started when he was 10 years old, and he always dreamed of opening up his own restaurant. The stars seemed to align after meeting Rina, who says “those Sunday dinners were really the catalyst for Slide Thru #FAM’s menu concept.”
Rina’s mom was their business’s primary investor and continues to be their biggest fan. In 2018, the Slide Thru #FAM started with pop-up events via partnerships with local breweries and tap houses. After Selden Market hosted a few of Slide Thru #FAM’s successful pop-up events, the market gave them the opportunity to occupy and manage a storefront. Slide Thru #FAM has been at Selden Market ever since.
Ambience and Service
The Slide Thru #FAM crew members from whom we ordered were very upbeat and welcoming, which is always refreshing. It’s rare to find staff that seem just as enthusiastic as the owner(s). Interesting note about each of the crew members: they all have musical gifts. In addition to Eric and Rina’s talents, Matt is a rapper known as “Edison Av,” Anitamae is a singer who plays the guitar, ukelele, and piano, and Carrie is a singer, poet, and spoken word artist known as “Karasak.”
With Eric and Rina’s extensive food service experience and experience being guests at restaurants, they have a simple approach: project positive energy and treat the customer as you would want to be treated. Rina adds that they “welcome [our customers] as we would in our own home and understand if they are not familiar with our concept, it’s our job to gently guide them.” Their approach isn’t limited to face-to-face interactions. Rina makes it a point to engage with their customers on various media platforms, doing her best to answer every question and acknowledge each comment.
Their approach to marketing is based on expanding and focusing on the #FAM part of their name. “FAM” takes on several meanings for their business, mostly resonating with customers as “family”; however, FAM is actually an acronym for Food And Music. Slide Thru #FAM connects popular music with their food by having a monthly theme based on a specific album or musical artist. Rina is meticulous with finding the best R&B/Hip Hop lyrics that highlight the menu items and using album covers as the design inspiration for any social media posts or event flyers. When I visited, Better Dayz was the name of a limited edition slider in honor of the late, great Tupac Shakur’s birth month.
The “family” interpretation of FAM is not only demonstrated in their intimate interactions with customers, but also exemplified through the various business-to-business partnerships they maintain. For example, they work with Angie’s Bakery, widely known as serving the best pandesal in the entire Hampton Roads Area, for a batch of freshly baked pandesal for their sliders two to three times a week. KG, the owner of Angie’s Bakery, even spray painted Slide Thru Fam’s facade “What you wanna eat, boo? Let me feed you.” KG has also created two paintings supporting Slide Thru #FAM’s monthly musical themes.
Slide Thru #FAM also collaborates with other Selden Market vendors. They have worked with Vessel Craft Coffee to provide a drip cofee as part of a breakfast combo featuring a breakfast-style lumpia. Every Sunday, they work with Baked AF, which makes gluten-free biscuits for Slide Thru #FAM’s Southern Chicken in a Biscuit special. They consider the Selden Market vendors as “one big family” that pushes one another to reach their respective “lofty dreams.”
You have to tip your hat to Eric and Rina for creating sliders using classic Filipino proteins and pandesal. It’s something countless Filipino-American kids did on their own – using different combinations of ingredients to make pandesal sandwiches. Once I heard about what Slide Thru #FAM was doing, I was immediately a fan of the concept and loved that someone turned it into a business. Although, the sliders are the main attraction, they also serve other items, such their garlic rice bowls and their unique takes on lumpia and pancit – “Loom-Pya” and “Pahn-sit” respectively.
Leveraging Eric’s experience as a chef, Rina’s experience growing up with Filipino food, and their combined creative prowess, they created a menu that is a reflection of them as both individuals and business partners. Rina says she “personally wanted to make our menu accessible to those who typically avoid Filipino food due to dietary restrictions,” while staying true to the “root of the dishes in terms of the flavor profiles.”
For instance, they use gluten-free soy sauce in all of their slider proteins, so rice bowls are safe for those who are gluten-intolerant. Since a growing number of people avoid red meat, their Loom-Pya is made with ground turkey instead of the beef and pork included in traditional lumpia.
Let me dispel any thoughts of compromised flavor. Despite the healthier substitutions, all of the flavors you expect are there and then some! I didn’t even know they used ground turkey in their Loom-Pya until I was told after downing a few. In fact, I believe the version of lumpia at Slide Thru #FAM can hang some of the best in the area. This is a good idea for a future project, but I digress…
The Hampton Roads area has a significant Filipino American population, and naturally, one of Eric and Rina’s biggest concerns was not getting “approval from the Aunties.” They are confident they have achieved this based on the positive feedback they’ve received from a vast majority of the community. Eric and Rina recognize there will always be a contingency that resists new concepts and anything straying away from tradition, but their goal was to “represent the cuisine in a way that’s authentic to us.”
When they first opened, Eric shed a tear as an older Filipina thanked them for expanding Filipino cuisine for the masses. Eric says, “That meant a lot to me.”
During my visit, my dining partner and I ordered four different sliders: the ultra-popular Jack’d Mango-Dobo, Biz-Tek, Dinuguan-Mi, and the limited edition Better Dayz. We also added an order of Loom-Pya, another fan favorite. I chomped into the Jack’d Mango-Dobo, foolishly expecting it to taste just like chicken adobo. Rather than being disappointed, I was pleasantly surprised by the taste. The slow-cooked shredded chicken in jackfruit adobo is texturally similar to eating a pulled pork sandwich. I enjoyed the sweetness of the jackfruit and mango garlic mash, as well as the crunch of the plaintain chip bits.
The Dinuguan-Mi combines the savory pork blood stew flavor with the tanginess of a veggie slaw you typically find in a Vietnamese Bahn Mi. The Biz-Tek does a great job of replicating the flavor profile of the Filipino beef and onion dish Bistek, as they marinate their beef in a citrus soy sauce. Although the Better Dayz limited edition slider strays away from Filipino flavors, combining a meatloaf-style burger, tomato jam, and crispy fried onions, it was just as delicious as the other sliders.
I fully appreciate Slide Thru #FAM’s fresh take on Filipino cuisine. They have created a menu that successfully navigates between bold flavors and healthier options, as well as between tradition and innovation. Their slider concept is something that can reach a broad audience, playing into the duo’s goal of growing the business into a small franchise.
In the meantime, the Slide Thru #FAM will continue to connect people through food and music. Rina says “every person on our staff, myself and Eric included, are artists – lyricists, spoken word artists, singers, guitarists, illustrators, etc. We take that passion for artistic expression and put it towards creating an experience when you come see us. Slide on thru and meet the fam!”
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