The decision to launch a barbecue truck is essentially masochistic, and I’m not even talking about the torturous regulations and limitations that all rolling vendors must accept without complaint.
A mobile ’cue vendor must secure not just a licensed kitchen but a licensed kitchen willing to sacrifice precious hood ventilation space to install a wood smoker. Which means when you want to start a barbecue truck, you’d better be willing to hear kitchen managers spit out comments such as, “Are you kidding me?!”
Josh Saltzman and Trent Allen, owners of the grandly named Purveyors of Rolling Cuisine (a.k.a. PORC) truck, are guys who don’t accept rejection easily. Their very presence in the District of Columbia is proof. The University of Michigan graduates originally had planned to launch a truck in Ann Arbor in the fall of 2009, but a change in municipal codes there left the pair out in the cold. Undaunted, they researched vending laws in various cities and found Washington’s to be hospitable, which tells you how bad it was in Ann Arbor.
The next hurdle was persuading a kitchen to lease the partners space to hook up their smoker. Saltzman and Allen contacted more than 100 places. Some didn’t have room. Others just didn’t want the smoke. Finally, the guys secured a spot at Torrie’s at Wilson, the venerable soul-food restaurant on V Street NW. They’re now discussing barbecue weekends at Torrie’s, complete with live blues or jazz. PORC opened for business in late January.
Their vehicle is a converted U.S. Postal Service truck with a PORC logo on the side and back. Regrettably, it doesn’t have a smoke vent to lure barbecue fans. The pre-smoked meats are held on steam tables.
Neither Saltzman nor Allen has any culinary training, but they share a quality known to all good pit masters: They’ll suffer for the cause. Despite the limitations of their Southern Pride smoker unit, which burns mere wood chips, they turn out moist and surprisingly smoky pulled pork (for their tangy sandwiches, $7) as well as somewhat stringy beef (for their smokin’ barbecue-esque take on sloppy Joes, $7). They even manage to lightly smoke a vegetable medley for their black-bean-heavy vegan sloppy Joes ($6), which are less messy and far tastier than you’d imagine.
The key is patience: The owners feed their smoker wood chips for the 15-plus hours needed to give their pork and beef the taste of genuine pit barbecue. But I’m also half-convinced that their secret lies in Allen’s PORC sauce, custom-made with pork drippings, tomatoes and three vinegars. It boosts the smokiness and piquancy of everything it touches, like some barbecue steroid. Three other sauce options are available, with differing amounts of heat.
Saltzman and Allen plan to expand their menu of sausage-based bites to include a chorizo with saffron sauce and a simple seafood paella. Saltzman calls it “paella on a bun.”
If it’s anything like the rest of PORC’s menu, you’ll be pigging out on it.
Purveyors of Rolling Cuisine Check PORC’s Twitter feed for locations and times of operation: twitter.com/porcmobile . 202-567-7672 (PORC).