Passion for Pork

“The Squealer” (Pulled Pork Sandwich) at Blue Smoke BBQ Food Truck

Mijune - Saturday, May 31, 2014

Restaurant: Blue Smoke BBQ
Cuisine: Barbeque/Sandwiches/Southern/Food Cart
Location: Vancouver, BC
Address: Location varies – see here for schedule
Transit: n/a
Price Range: $10 or less

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!

Food: 5
Service: n/a
Ambiance: n/a
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • North Carolina style BBQ
  • Husband and wife operation
  • Sustainable meats
  • Specially made buns
  • Local ingredients
  • Home made BBQ sauce
  • Budget friendly/Cheap eats
  • Free cold lemon, cucumber, and rosemary water
  • Catering available

**Recommendations: Beef Brisket Sandwich, The Squealer (Pulled Pork Sandwich)

I like. No, I love! This is one to watch out for. It’s a rather new food truck and I have high hopes for them if they can stay consistent. The BBQ pulled pork sandwich is nothing new, (it’s actually a chopped pork sandwich, but I’ll get back to this), and we have tons in the city, but they’re doing it right and especially for a food truck. They have the passion, quality ingredients, right price, good value, friendly attitude and great ethics.

I was introduced to Blue Smoke BBQ on my media tour of the Main Street Station Vancouver Farmers Market and it was one of my highlights. I had never heard or seen it before and I wasn’t expecting to be blown away even though I love pulled pork sandwiches, but I just had no expectations for it. I was neutral and I ended up being impressed.

It’s a husband and wife owned and operated food truck and they specialize in North Carolina style BBQ, which is why the main feature is chopped pork and not pulled pork. The owner Wayne Hunter knows his stuff and he’s a well travelled and seasoned BBQ fanatic.

They have a limited menu which I think is ideal for any food truck. It shows specialization and I strongly believe if you’re good at one thing, you should stick to that one thing with slight variations. They offer chopped pork and chopped chicken sandwiches in either buns, bowls, or wraps, and that’s basically the whole menu. There may be an occasional special, and if they happen to be offering their beef brisket, I would suggest dropping your bags and paying them a visit.

The price is also right. When it comes to a food truck it does matter. Personally I prefer spending about $10 or less on a food cart for lunch and ideally it would be $8. I just think if it’s more than $10 I want a chair. It’s supposed to be affordable, not gourmet, although Vancouver tastes are pretty sophisticated so the formula is a challenge. On the other hand I appreciate good quality ingredients that are properly sourced and if that comes with a price than I understand.

And that’s the thing, Blue Smoke BBQ uses local and sustainable meats, smokes their own meats, makes their own sauces, and sells everything at under $8. So far I think they have the formula nailed. They even offer complimentary cold lemon, cucumber, and rosemary water. The only thing is that they’re super messy sandwiches and hard to eat as street food, but I don’t care. It was worth it. If they can stay this good, I would say they’re gold.

On the table: **The Squealer5/6 (Excellent)

  • Southern style slow smoked pulled pork in Blue Smoke’s unique “Red Thunder” sauce, coleslaw on an artisan brioche roll. $7
  • This style of BBQ is from the western side of Northern Carolina so it had certain characteristics that made it authentic to that style.
  • North Carolina BBQ is mainly pork and it’s not pulled pork, but chopped pork. Some places might pull it, but traditionally it’s chopped.
  • The western side of North Carolina uses pork shoulder which is a bit fattier and richer while the eastern side of North Carolina uses the whole pig which includes white and dark meat.
  • Although they called this “pulled pork”, this was actually chopped (or slightly in between), but most Vancouverites would identify with pulled over chopped.
  • Personally I prefer pulled, but if it’s North Carolina style BBQ then I’m appreciating it as a chopped pork.
  • When the sandwich came out it was almost flat and it didn’t look like much, but it is best eaten immediately.
  • It was super messy and piled with pork and it was a sandwich I could barely pick up. My favourite kind of sandwich.
  • The bottom of the bun was almost being weighed down by the amount of pork sinking into it. It was a glorified mess.
  • The bun already had me. It’s an important role in a sandwich and this one was part of the selling factor.
  • Brioche buns are my favourite for burgers and BBQ meat sandwiches, and the glossy sheen and crackling baked crust on this one was a sign of beauty!
  • These buns were not GFS or Sysco mass produced buns, but they were from Stuyvers Bake Studio in Burnaby, an artisanal bakery supplier.
  • It was an excellent pillowy light and fluffy bun, with a mild sweetness although less buttery in flavour than I expected.
  • It was a super soft bun with little chew, but it was still 2:1 meat to bread which I don’t mind, even though the bun was great!
  • My favourite brioche bun I’ve had to date is still at Belle’s on Thirty Two, but this one was up there!
  • The coleslaw is home made with ingredients from their garden which is impressive, but I couldn’t tell it was artisan.
  • Some say that North Carolina coleslaws are supposed to be vinegar based, plain and insignificant to the sandwich.
  • Others in Lexington (central North Carolina) say that it should be a red-slaw which uses Ketchup instead of mayo.
  • This one was heavily dressed in a gloppy vinegar based mayo or buttermilk (?) dressing and it just seemed generic to me.
  • I wasn’t keen on it and it didn’t really do anything for the sandwich.
  • The coleslaw might be secondary, but I like a good cole slaw with a good crunch that isn’t as heavily dressed, and one that compliments the pork.

  • Oh gosh… that bun. Okay, but moving onto the meat.
  • The free range all natural pork is from Two Rivers Speciality Meats, which is one of Vancouver’s beloved local meat suppliers.
  • The pork was roughly chopped and slightly pulled in big chunks which is typical of North Carolina BBQ.
  • It was dry rubbed overnight with a house made spice blend and smoked for about 10-16 hours over applewood, alder and maple wood (sweeter woods).
  • Personally I prefer the intensity and smokiness of hickory and hickory is typical for North Carolina.
  • It is then mixed with a thick home made “Red Thunder” BBQ sauce which is tomato based (Western North Carolina) instead of vinegar (Eastern North Carolina) and mustard based (South Carolina).
  • There was still vinegar in this sauce though and the tomato sauce wasn’t Ketchup-y tasting, but more like roasted and stewed tomatoes.
  • It was completely smooth in texture with perhaps some hot pepper sauce because there was a spicy kick.
  • The pork isn’t a super saucy and soppy pulled pork, but it was very moist and naturally juicy. This is the North Carolina style.
  • You might hit some drier chunks here and there, but it’s easily overlooked.
  • The meat was well seasoned with a good amount of pepper and chili flakes which added to the spiciness.
  • This peppery kick is also typical of North Carolina BBQ.
  • It was flavourful spicy and spicier than I would expect from a food truck, but not hot.
  • The pork had some nice pieces of chewy dark red bark, but it lacked that infused smoky flavour from a hickory wood.
  • I couldn’t pick out any particular spices, but it was more tangy than sweet and not really that sweet at all.
  • It was sweet from the smoking process and wood chips more so than it was from additional sauces and the basting.
  • There was a lot of BBQ sauce, but it never masked the meat and that was the layer that stood out most.
  • I actually love the super saucy, sweet and tangy soppy pulled pork, but for a North Carolina BBQ sandwich, I have to take it as is, and I loved it!
  • Sure there were a couple non-traditional twists, but regardless of authenticity, it seemed legit and just plain delicious.
  • For a food truck I thought it was an excellent pulled pork and I bet they could do even better in a restaurant or at home context.
  • In case you are wondering, yes I’ve tried Re-Up BBQ. In terms of just pulled pork sandwiches in general I also love the one at Hubbub Sandwiches.