It’s a boiling hot Thursday afternoon. I’m wearing a white t-shirt (under a cardigan, so it’s subzero work appropriate). And I need lunch.
So it makes sense that I stopped by the BBQ Bus food truck.
It wasn’t meant to happen like this. I had a dentist appointment at noon, after which I planned on swinging by my favorite deli on the 4-block walk back to the office to grab a salad.
But I was engrossed in a writing assignment at work and totally blew through my dentist appointment. Fifteen minutes past the scheduled appointment time, I called to try to convince them to take me in anyway, but no dice.
So again, what better way to celebrate not getting one’s teeth cleaned than by eating stringy meats guaranteed to get caught in one’s teeth?
It was shortly after 1 pm when I trudged out to Farragut Square. But, since it was so late, a lot of the trucks didn’t have lines. I have seen lines in front of the little yellow BBQ Bus before, so I took this as a golden opportunity to try it without the long wait.
The menu was actually pretty impressive. They had all kinds of plates, sandwiches, meat by the pound, and sides. Some of the sides sounded divine, such as black bean and corn salad, potato salad, and on this particular day, fresh watermelon.
I ordered the BBQ Bus sampler ($9.50), which included pulled pork, chicken and brisket, beans, cole slaw and a roll. I had them add on a quarter rack of ribs for $5 more.
They had an official cash register and took credit cards, which is a plus. The drink selection was pretty standard: coke, diet coke, sprite, water.
The food came right out and I perused the sauce options, carefully reading the detailed descriptions. Finally, I just asked, “Do y’all have anything close to a Texas BBQ sauce?” The answer, “We don’t have Texas BBQ sauce, but the closest would be sauce #5, which is smoky and sweet.” It was described as “our tribute to Missouri” and also won an honorable mention at the 2011 Safeway National Capital BBQ Battle. I put some of that in one corner, and some of the sauce #24 –“a tangy sauce with a KICK”– in another corner.
But I was still annoyed at the lack of Texas sauce. How are you going to sell brisket and not have a Texas sauce??
I also noticed that they didn’t have any knives, only forks, which I thought was supremely confident on their part. You mean to tell me your meat is so tender, I’m not going to have any trouble cutting it with just a fork?
All my annoyances and raised eyebrows were soon sated, however, when the charming cashier handed me a wax paper baggie with two warm chocolate chunk cookies in it. “We want to show our customers we appreciate them, so we’re giving out free cookies today,” he said. Alarm bells went off immediately. “Why would you do that?,” I asked. “What do you mean,” he responded. “Well, if you’re giving cookies away, is that a cover for something else? Like, maybe you’re trying to butter me up because you know the food won’t be good?,” I queried. After assurances that there were no ulterior motives afoot, I warily shifted my hot plastic container of meat to my other hand and accepted the cookies.
I walked the three minutes back to my office, making sure to close my office door so no hapless co-workers would have to witness the carnivore carnage about to commence.
I started with the spicy chicken, which was really good. Moist, spicy, tender and already off the bone – a very good start. I know chicken can be notoriously difficult and dried out from the grill, so I was impressed.
I moved on to the pulled pork, which was also very, very good. It had a bit of smokiness, but probably could have used more. It paired the best with the #24 sauce, which was waaaay more than tangy. It was downright vinegary. I didn’t care for it that much, but when paired with the pork, it worked.
The brisket was just ok, but to be fair, I’m a super harsh judge on brisket (we make the best brisket at home on the Big Green Egg). It definitely could have used a thicker crust, but I like a lot of crust on my BBQ. The fact that they had it at all gave them some points in my eyes, and they included a nice fatty piece, which is where all the smoke is at. The #5 sauce was very good with it.
The ribs were a very mixed bag: they were definitely smoked tender and the meat crumbled under my fingers when I was just trying to pick it up. They were pork, obviously, since you can’t hardly get a beef rib in this area. The meat was really good and easy to eat, but this brown molasses-type sauce they slathered all over the top just killed it. It was too sweet and syrupy.
The sides were a mixed bag as well. The beans were horrendous. Overcooked and sickly sweet as well. Eating a spoonful of those right after the ribs could plunge you into a diabetic coma. The slaw was much better, a nice cool, crunchy accompaniment to all that meat, and you could see the little specks of celery seed in their homemade vinaigrette.
The roll was the worst. We won’t even talk about it, except to say store bought and totally soggy by the time I got back to the office.
But the cookies? The cookies were where it was at! They were amazing. I meant to only eat one and give the other one away, but I could not control myself. All that was missing was a glass of milk, but somehow, I made it through and scarfed down both of them.
So overall, decent BBQ, good portions, pretty good price (as far as food trucks go), and obviously, convenient. There aren’t any BBQ places near Farragut Square, so it’s nice to be able to get that.
On the negatives: I would have liked the option of picking my sides, but honestly, I probably would have picked beans and slaw in any case. It’s just nice to have the option. Also: They should ditch the rolls, and the rib sauce. And keep handing out those free cookies.
(Oh, and I somehow managed to keep my white t-shirt relatively clean, despite everything.)
I’d give BBQ Bus three wheels out of four.
Previous TPFT reviews: