Barbecue doesn't necessarily lend itself to the food truck. The extensive food prep, including overnight cooks in most cases, is usually best left to those with brick-and-mortar bases of operation. Barbecue truck operators are forced to decide whether to smoke offsite and keep the day's prepared meat warm using a Cambro, or invest the $15,000 to $25,000 necessary to install a smoker on the truck. And even that more expensive choice does not necessarily alleviate the need for renting an offsite commissary space, or the need for a meat warmer.
It's uphill both ways for the brave souls serving up 'cue in some of the most logistically challenging trucks on the lot. Repairs are a constant drain on profits after overnight cooks deprive operators of sleep, and, in some cases, time out on the road. Many barbecue truckers divide their time between hitting the pavement at your local food truck parks, and catering corporate gigs and weddings. These five road warriors are filling that niche nicely, though, and filling hungry bellies all over the Metroplex with mobile-smoked goodies.
1. Not Just Q
What's your favorite barbecue restaurant? Owner Eric Hansen, formerly of Canne Roso and The Slow Bone, has been doing it every bit as good or better for the last year-and-a-half as he's been tearing up the streets of Dallas. If there is one barbecue food truck you need to try right now, this is the one. Not Just Q features the most comprehensive meat menu of any truck in the bunch, offering everything from smoked turkey and chicken to pulled pork, perfect sliced brisket, pork ribs and two types of sausage that sizzle in the bowels of Hansen's Old Hickory (pictured above), where he can smoke up to 500 pounds of meat from right on the truck.
Briskets are cooked to a perfect 192 degrees internal temperature with smoke from a post oak and hickory wood combination, while poultry is treated with cherry wood as well. Go for the lean brisket, whose stripe of marbling and smoky char is just the right addition to the subtle smokiness of the protein. The flavorful rub on the brisket and ribs render the homemade sauce optional, but don't forget the red stuff, which is tangy and peppery in all the right places. Try the Carolina-style yellow mustard sauce as well; Hansen says it's only for the pulled pork, and don't tell him we told you, but it's also damn good with the sausage. In accordance with the truck's name, you can get any barbecue meat in taco form, too.
Any establishment with four walls would be proud to serve 'que like this.
2. Heim Craft Barbecue
While Heim doesn't necessarily meet all the criteria for being labeled a "food truck" (it doesn't move), it does meet the most important one (served from a trailer), and the product is without exaggeration some of the best barbecue around. CBS DFW was the latest to laud newcomers Travis and Emma Heim, who in February worked out an arrangement with the owner of Fort Worth Republic Street Bar to serve a rapidly-growing queue of barbecue fans, twice a week, in the black trailer that rests stationary in the yard.
Get there early. The dynamic duo has been routinely selling out of meat in less than three hours on Saturdays. The post oak-smoked brisket is a minor miracle, perfected to a degree most indoor establishments will never touch. Fatty or lean, you can't go wrong. Meats are served by the pound with sides (try Heim's take on potato salad) metered out in pints.
But the real gem here is the bacon burnt ends. The pork belly cut is cured and cooked hot and fast with a peppery rub that balances the initial sweetness so you don't confuse it with dessert. Although, it would be pretty sweet if these bad boys were eventually positioned as the donut holes of the barbecue world, a few thrown in with every order over $5. Unfortunately, with all the strides we have made lately, we haven't quite reached that point in the evolution of barbecue.
Heim Craft Barbecue on Facebook
Find them at: 201 E Hattie St., Fort Worth
Hours: Wednesday 5pm-9pm, Saturday 11am-Sold Out
Try the: Bacon Burnt Ends
3. Oink N Moo
Dave Hunt's outfit is the wily veteran on the roster and has been slangin' smoked provisions around town since early 2013. We caught up with the rustic-themed trailer most recently in Grand Prairie, where the menu was very sandwich-centric, but this one has been a little bit harder for the drooling masses to keep up with lately, as Oink N Moo is routinely hired for private catering events.
Contrary to Gavin Cleaver's stark predictions, Oink N Moo's mobile brisket service has yet to send anyone from their mortal coil, but it's still dangerously good barbecue. The pulled pork sandwich ($9) is not to be trifled with. Hunt uses a 66/33 hickory/apple wood mix in his beef cooks, while moving the split to 50/50 when pork and poultry spin in the in-house smoker that can handle 300 pounds of meat at a time.
Oink N Moo Web site
Find them at: Check their online calendar
Try the: Pulled Pork Sandwich
4. Coochies BBQ
What can we say about Denton's Thomas Couture, owner and operator of Coochies, except that he's quite clearly an classy individual whose mind never slides in the direction of the gutter. That, and he can make me a sandwich anytime. Coochies has been rolling around Denton for about eight months, primarily parking at the Austin St. Truck Stop next to East Side Social Club.
It's sandwiches ($7-$9) over combos at Coochies, and the no frills, no sides menu makes ordering a cinch. One interesting offering is the B Rad, a brisket quesadilla pressed with cheddar jack cheese and onions. Couture smokes his meats with pecan wood offsite at his commissary, leaving sandwich prep to the truck. The smooth pecan smoke leaves the flavor-making to the meat, which might be improved with a little more char and bark. The homemade sauce gives an unfortunate hint of tomato paste up front before finishing nicely with a good kick of spice. It's definitely worth a try.
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5. Tha Smokin Chef
Former Frisco RoughRiders sous chef and Dallas restaurant scene veteran Randall Hensley drives the new truck on the block under the flag of Tha Smokin Chef. Based in Lewisville, where he hickory smokes all his meat, Tha Smokin Chef can usually be found around Denton, in particular at Austin Street.
We'll forgive Hensley's use of bottled Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce as a youthful oversight, and the absence of sliced brisket or pork ribs on the menu was a bit eyebrow-raising as well. But Hensley has made his menu work for him in an interesting format. Choose your meat - chopped brisket, pulled pork or pulled chicken - before choosing your preferred medium: a parfait, which layers the meat and sauce over mashed potatoes, tacos, nachos, loaded fries, sliders, or the Smokin Deal, which is your basic plate with a side. Or you can get a Smokin Bowl, which adds sweet corn to the parfait, lending it no small resemblance Patton Oswalt's Sadness Bowl, except thankfully without any KFC products contained inside.