Thanks to a loosening of municipal restrictions, Vancouver’s street food scene is suddenly blossoming. Among the new players on the scene is Re-Up BBQ, a food cart serving pulled pork sandwiches that’s stationed in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Re-Up opened earlier this month and was greeted with rave reviews by diners and Vancouver Sun food critic Shelley Fralic. I decided to check it out on a sunny afternoon earlier this week.
But let’s back up: What exactly is pulled pork? A favorite in the U.S. South and Midwest, pulled pork is a massive chunk of hog that’s been slow-cooked, smoked and basted for hours – and sometimes days – on end. The idea is that the meat becomes so moist and so tender that it can be pulled apart into juicy shreds. Pulled pork in parts of the U.S. is taken very seriously, with fans divided into two bitterly opposed camps. Southerners insist on a tangy, vinegar-based barbecue, while Midwesterners prefer a sweeter, tomato-based variety.
But back to Re-Up: The operation itself – in find street food form – is refreshingly ghetto. No fancy van. No uniformed servers. Sandwiches are assembled inside a tiny, unmarked silver trailer – no larger than a pair of phone booths. (The actual roasting is done off-site, at the Irish Heather in Gastown). On a weekday afternoon earlier this week, a line of about 20 people waited at the window. Outside the trailer, a big bag of buns hung on the door and extra pork was packed inside of two chilled Coleman coolers, sweating in the sun.
As I neared the front of the line, I got a peek at the menu. They keep it nice and simple. Pulled pork sandwiches will set you back $6 plus HST. To drink, there’s sweet tea (another Southern classic, made with lemon and a lot of sugar) and homemade sodas (both $2 plus HST). And that’s it. Inside the trailer, coowners Michael Kaisaris and Lindsay Ferguson were racing to keep up with demand. Dancing around each other in the cramped space, they ladled pork on a pair of buns, topped it with coleslaw and applied a bit of some secret barbecue sauce.
So the big question: How did it taste? Well, Michael asked for my honest opinion, so here goes. It’s good; but there’s room to get better. Bun, slaw and sauce are all excellent – fresher, maybe even tastier, than what you’d get in a down-home barbecue joint in North Carolina. But the pork – as juicy and flavorful as it is – just isn’t tender enough. Good barbecue should literally fall apart into delicate morsels. The sample I tried needed a bit more slow cookin’ to achieve pork perfection.
But Re-Up is off to a promising start and has already revolutionized Vancouver’s burgeoning street food scene. Any other fans of Re-Up BBQ out there? What do you think of their pulled pork?