News & Politics

Street Vendor John Rider Has a Condo in Boca?

This guy must be some burrito salesman.

Photograph by Matthew Worden.

In October the District officially changed its mind about street cuisine, reversing a 1998 moratorium on vendor-cart licenses. Now DC is poised for an explosion of creative, rollable fare: Japanese noodle vans, gyro spits, frozen custard on wheels, and more.

The new law is being phased in. Come summer, new vendors will begin setting up in the K Street corridor between Georgetown and Union Station and in 120 downtown blocks along F Street, 14th Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue near Freedom Plaza. For current vendors, the legislation means more insurance bills and paperwork but not necessarily more money.

Will the new competition affect our favorite street-food guy—John Rider of Pedro and Vinny’s on 15th and K streets? He’s a real cook who creates real atmosphere—even without walls or a permanent address.

John Rider

AGE: 49

Culinary background: A 1979 Johnson & Wales University culinary school grad, Rider was executive chef of the Key Bridge Marriott’s View restaurant, which was named Best Brunch Spot by erstwhile Washington Post food critic Phyllis Richman.

Years as a vendor: Almost ten, including six as the proprietor of Pedro and Vinny’s. Someday he hopes to serve both Italian and Mexican grub from the same cart.

The pledge: Nothing frozen, nothing canned. Rider goes through 20 pounds of tomatoes, 15 pounds of dried black beans, and 14 pounds of dried pintos daily.

Customer base: Lawyers and lobbyists from the K Street corridor begin flocking to the metal cart at 11 daily with their fistfuls of cash. Rider doesn’t take credit cards.

Size of a medium burrito: 21 ounces.

Burritos sold per day: About 130 in the cold months, about 200 in spring and summer.

Assembly rate: 40 seconds a burrito.

Distinctive touch: Rider’s housemade hot sauces. Spiciness ranges from one to ten, with both fruity and nonfruity options. At a perfect six, his housemade Mango Magma is a crowd favorite and soon will be bottled and sold nationwide.

Freebies: Tortilla chips for snacking and hot-sauce taste testing, York peppermint patties (right below the plastic cutlery) for dessert.

Web site: Consult the daily updated page to see whether the stand is open or closed. Rider isn’t scared of blizzards or wind speeds, but has a reputation for impulsively skipping town.

Favorite vacation spot: South Boca Raton, Florida—in a condo with a view of a golf course and tennis courts.

Annual income: Enough, Rider claims, to cover the cost of a vacation home “and then some.”

Testimonial: Rick Rowden, a senior policy analyst with Action Aid International, says Rider’s burritos “keep me grounded, especially in such a chaotic world.”