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'Jerk.' Chicken Food Truck Aims to Show Jamaican Spice is Nice

By Chloe Riley | March 20, 2013 7:47am

PILSEN — Foodie Dion Solano is only a jerk about chicken.

So much so, he started “Jerk.”, a food truck with a license to make traditional Jamaican jerk chicken like Solano had as a child.

Solano, 34, who’s worked in video game development for the past seven years, said he’s not a chef. But after growing up in Jamaica, he found himself inundated with good jerk chicken recipes.

And after the city approved its new food truck ordinance in July, Solano said he knew he wanted to bring quality “pushcart street food” to the Chicago masses.

The food truck ordinance allows trucks to apply for a license to cook onboard. But trucks are still restricted as to where they can park and must have a Global Positioning System to help Health Department inspectors keep track of their whereabouts.

“The city is still trying to figure out what they’re doing with food trucks,” said Solano, who applied for his license in November.

But he said the Sanitation Department reps were helpful in many ways, even taking photos of Solano’s truck as an ideal example of a food truck with onboard cooking and plumbing.

Solano's truck is the second in the city to receive a food truck license to cook onboard. The Salsa Truck, owned by Dan Salls, received the first in January.

Jerk.’s signature is the Jerk Chicken sandwich. For $6, you get chicken marinated in Solano’s own “Rude Boy” sauce, then grilled, chopped and thrown onto Jamaican Hard Dough Bread with extra Rude Boy sauce on the side.

The truck also serves Jerk Wings, Jerk Fries and “Festival,” a fried Jamaican cornbread fritter that helps balance the spice of all the other jerky stuff.

And don’t be looking to quench that heat with a Coca-Cola. “Jerk.” only serves Jamaican sodas such as D&G Champagne Kola and Ting Grapefruit Soda.

The “Jerk.” truck is parked at 2300 S. Throop St., but when it’s on the move, Solano said he wants to target late-night crowds in neighborhoods like Wicker Park and Wrigleyville.

“The focus is going to be late night, and I don't think any other food trucks are really going after that,” he said.

Solano’s partner Brett Gough agrees.

“I think there’s something to establishing yourself in a neighborhood. People can grow to expect it,” Gough said.

Gough is the CEO at Toy Studio, a social game developer. When he and Solano met in 2010, Gough said he had no idea he’d be getting into the food truck industry.

But Solano’s passion for the company, combined with the simplicity of the marketing concept, brought Gough onboard as the solo investor in “Jerk.”

“Jerk.”, which also has a catering menu, call be followed on Twitter at @Jerk312 or by visiting the website at www.jerk312.com.