Not since the days of Shaggy, Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Machine have mobile smokehouses been so mainstream. Case and point, I was at a fundraiser a while back and the line for Urban Smoke was twice that of any other truck that was onsite. Parked comfortably within the confines of a private parking lot (so as not to add to further Toronto city hall controversies) , the staff were busy dishing out some traditional and not so traditional fare. Ten bucks got you one of four choices so I picked up some lunch for myself and a colleague.
The ability to get a hearty soup is a rarity in most restaurants let alone a food truck. The split pea soup was reminiscent of something your French-Canadian uncle J.P. may spend hours in the kitchen whipping up in a magical cauldron. It was thick and savory and filled with chunks of delicious double smoked ham while resisting the temptation to over-salt, a common transgression of many an eatery.
Perfecting the grilled cheese seems a easy trick but its simplicity is often its quandary. Urban Smoke offered two sandwiches; a standard grilled cheese and one featuring nutella and mascarpone cheese as a dessert. Magic is grilling the bread to golden brown while melting the ample filling, a feat that everyone from top chefs to 15 year old latchkey kids have spent generations trying to perfect. Urban Smoke comes close. The secret could very well be seasoning the bread with just a small amount of salt on the outside before grilling the abundant contents within. Simple but extremely satisfying.
The pulled pork was average which is still a compliment considering the number of food trucks, burger joints and smoke houses who lay their foundation on good pulled pork. The meat was tender, partnered with piquant seasonings and the bread was soft and proportional to the filling. The “magic fries” provided a poof that could certainly help Penn and Teller make a rabbit appear but maybe not enough to make David Copperfield’s convertible materialize out of the blue. The slaw added a delicious, tangy crunch.
I took a chance and opted to skip the magic fries in favour of the banana pudding (see picture above). It had a decent flavour but I felt a bit ripped off by the size and the fact it was starting to separate a bit, leaving a bit of an oily pool in the bottom of the glass. It was about the size of a jello shooter and in the end about as exciting as the never-ending handkerchief trick.
Part of the appeal of a food truck should be a quick meal to avoid having to sit down, order, eat and wait for the bill. Although almost inevitable, especially during high volume events such as fundraisers and other events, long waits continue to be an issue with wheel-bearing establishments and Urban Smoke was no exception.
Urban Smoke is a bit of a traveling roadshow, bringing a kind of magic show to each and every parking lot or street side it inhabits. The headliners include a variety of southern BBQ foods including pulled pork and brisket partnered with a few other choices. As a result, it draws big crowds which means big lines and big waits. The staff, however, are quite efficient and personable and maintain a decent flow. If the truck is around (check out torontofoodtrucks.ca for schedules), I would definitely consider a trip for lunch if you have the time and desire to break up a hectic day. After all, after a busy adventure unmasking criminals, I’m sure Shag and Scoob would have been happy to fill up on a few grilled cheese sandwiches following an equally smoky visit to the Mystery Machine.
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