Earlier in the year, Joe Palma, chef de cuisine at Westend Bistro, noticed a food truck around the corner from his restaurant. "I saw it parked there with 30 or 40 of my customers standing in line. So I walked over and got a sandwich. It was pretty good for a $15 sandwich," he says, "but then I thought, 'I can do better. And I can undercut those prices.' "
Starting Friday, Palma will make good on his claim, taking on the food trucks with a lunchtime menu of barbecue sandwiches and classic sides that will be sold on Fridays from a cash-only sandwich stand on the restaurant's patio.
At $6, the sandwich prices are indeed comparable to most of the four-wheeled competition's. There are three varieties: chicken, pork and beef. The meats are smoked in a stand-alone barrel style-smoker behind the restaurant's kitchen. Palma had hoped to run the smoker on the patio next to the sandwich stand, but District licensing and regulations made that practically impossible.
The pulled chicken is served North Carolina style, dressed in a tart vinegar sauce. The pulled pork is listed as "Carolina style," in this case meaning that it is served with the gold, slightly sweet mustard sauce native to parts of South Carolina. The brisket is "Texas style," though purists will balk at the thick, subtly spicy sauce.
Sides include biscuits ($1), coleslaw ($2) and chips ($2). You can order lemonade or sweet tea ($3) and finish your meal with pie ($3) or lemon pretzel bars ($2). Or you can go for the combination "picnic basket" lunch, which packages a pork or brisket sandwich with a biscuit, coleslaw, pie and drink for $14. One dollar less than the sandwich Palma promised to undercut.
-Justin Rude (Friday, April 8, 2011)