Reminiscent of Big Foot or Rob Ford jogging, food trucks are a rather elusive sighting in Toronto. Bound by by-laws which do not allow more trucks to attain permanent residency in the downtown core, they are forced to travel like Nomads making it a bit of a feat to find one that is open on any given day. Check out http://torontofoodtrucks.ca/ for information about food trucks in Toronto.
As I approached the corner of Front and Sherbourne in search of Hogtown Smoke, I caught a whiff of the smoked meat about a block away. I happened to be second in line so I was able to sample some of the brisket right out of the smoker before I even ordered. Although it took a while to get rolling after a minor gas malfunction (which I appreciated because it allowed me to stare at the small menu like an idiot for 15 minutes without a clue what I was going to order)., the window opened and I was greeted by the friendly staff members. Specials included a kimchi grilled cheese and side ribs in addition to the traditional pulled pork, poutine, brisket, po’ boy sandwiches and kicked up grilled cheese. I opted for the ribs, brisket and poutine to get a taste for a bit of everything. The staff joked with the building crowd, apologizing for the delays and asking everybody their names.
St. Louis Side Ribs ($10)
New to the truck, I was a little leery since side ribs are not as forgiving as back ribs and are easy to mess up. They came through by fulfilling the holy trinity of rib triumph; crunchy bark (although a bit salty), a deep pink smoke ring and fall off the bone tenderness. They were supposed to be served with baked beans and slaw but in the lunacy of opening I did not get the slaw so I can’t comment. The beans were very saucy, had great texture and bubbly flavours driven by the unmistakable sassifrassness of root beer. Imagine a baked bean flavoured Jelly Belly jelly bean and you’ve got the taste.
2 lb Pulled Pork Poutine ($10)
This alliterative aliment almost achieves all acclaimed attributes (of a good poutine). Poutine has its own holy trinity characterized by fabulous fries, great gravy and cheese curds. Hogtown almost reached divinity. The fries were a good size, taste and texture (which is tough since poutine fries get really mushy, really fast). The pulled pork got bonus points. It had a huge, juicy pork flavour and good seasoning. My one criticism was the final execution because the curds didn’t melt under the gravy. A small thing, but a traditional poutinist may pou-pou it.
Patron Jalapeno Mango Sauce
Use the Patron Jalapeno Mango sauce in anyway you can. It’s fantastic and can best be described as Big Mac sauce on steroids. I would go as far as baking up six High Liner fish sticks and bring them in a zip lock bag just so I could taste this sauce over and over again.
The brisket sandwich was sliced thin, piled fairly high and served on a good size swirly rye-type bun. At the recommendation of the staff, I topped it with the spicy barbeque sauce and horseradish aioli. The meat was busting with flavour with minimal grit but it was a bit dry. The sauces helped to moisten it up a bit, making it quite a good sandwich.
Not much other than the early service disruption and the fact they forget my slaw!
Hopefully food trucks are here to stay because they provide limitless variety and creative license. Hogtown smoke didn’t disappoint, offering traditional smoke house flavours with modern twists. The ribs approached divinity. The poutine may have reached sainthood. Like many trucks, the biggest issue is execution and speed of service. These are good guys with a good attitude and a good concept. I’d endure minor traffic and a small crowd to come back. Hell, I might even start going to church again.