This is the first Eat This Town post written by Murray Wong, who will be contributing food truck reviews and other future content (stay tuned!). I have been a fan of Murray’s Yelp reviews for quite some time, and encouraged him to bring his unique writing style and critical palate to the Eat This Town team!
If you’re a true food truck fan, you’re already following your favourites both on social media and in real life, and they may just know you by name. If you’re a trendster who just like things that seem cool, then a food truck rally is probably more of your thing – lots of other hip people around and a local radio station blasting bad music. However, these rallies aren’t all long lines and enochlophobia triggers (tough those are certainly factors), they provide an opportunity to try food trucks from out of your normal geographic range, as well as brand new trucks.
Smokinstein’s owners relocated all the way from Barrie, Ontario to live in good ol’ Nova Scotia, bringing this oddly-themed BBQ truck with them, as well as their other mobile enterprise, Fresh Food Truck. With Halifax’s other mobile barbeque vendor only doing events after they took over the kitchen at Bearly’s, I was keen on trying the latest traveling slinger of smoked meats.
I arrived shortly after the rally opened and there was barely a line at this new truck on the block (NTOTB). Like many of the trucks on site, they had a fairly limited menu to increase their efficiency once the crowds did get going. The lean (figuratively) menu had an applewood-smoked pulled pork slider, smoked sausages, and fries/poutine. The choice seemed pretty simple, so I went with the pulled pork ($6).
I soon had my porcine sandwich in hand, and hungrily dug in. The meat was in tender hunks, not ultra-fine strands, which I enjoyed as they have a much more pleasant chew and are less prone to turning to mush in a warming tray. The smoke flavour was pretty light, which wasn’t surprising, as that can be tough to get on a chunk of meat as big as a pork shoulder, nor is it guaranteed that the smokiest outer bits will get into any given sandwich. I appreciated the light touch with the sauce, as pulled pork swimming in a too-sweet commercial sauce is all too common these days. A simple slaw added some crunch and tang, while the small bun was crustier than your typical hamburger bun, and held up quite well to its messy filling.
On my second visit, I saw on the Street Food App that Smokinstein was located at the airport, so to get the full experience I made the trek out there. It seems that while the airport is doing renovations, it has partnered with various food trucks to have a couple on site while they’re short a restaurant or two. If only this creativity extended to having actual entrepreneurs running restaurants in the airport instead of a corporate overlord, the quality of food might be such that I’d want to eat there instead of just settling for it.
There was a smattering of travellers and airport staff when I went up to the colourful truck to order shortly after the lunch rush. Their menu was comprised of a handful of eat-on-the-go foods – a smoked haddock taco, smoked sausage, hotdog, quesadilla and loaded tater tots. Tacos and tots? Well that was an easy decision. After a short wait I had my food and went into the airport to eat and people watch, comfortable in my knowledge that no one knew I was a weirdo who drove out to the airport and paid for parking to eat at a food truck.
I had high hopes for the smoked haddock taco ($6): I ordered the corn tortilla option, it was topped with pineapple and habanero salsa, and of course, the smoked haddock. Alas, like many a dream both food-related and otherwise, my hopes were quickly dashed. The salsa was a bit sweet, but neither the heat of the habanero nor the actual flavour of the pineapple registered. The fish had a great smoke on it, but the smoking process and being reheated on the grill left it noticeably dry. I’m not a cilantro fan in general, but the sad, yellowing cilantro on my taco just got picked off.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the corn tortilla. My food dreams are still haunted by the intoxicating smell of corn tortillas grilling at street-side tacquerias in Pittsburgh (yes, an unlikely city, but hey, don’t knock it till you try ‘em) and this tortilla did not scratch my itch. It was so bland I might as well have gotten the flour tortilla.
While they weren’t as creative culinarily, the loaded tater tots ($9) hit the mark on execution. Topped with green onion, tomato, cheddar, and homemade buttermilk ranch, the only thing that kept me from grossing out strangers with how fast I was eating them was the tiny spork which was poorly suited to the meal. The tots themselves were also well done; I suspect they were handmade as well, and had a light batter for extra crunchiness around the nooks and crannies of the tots.
Smokinstein definitely has respectable aspirations with their menu, but some elements need to be shored up in their execution if they want to reach those heights. They might not be worth a special trip to a place with paid parking, but give their tots and pulled pork a go and you shouldn’t be disappointed.
P.S. I don’t get the Frankenstein theme, but their truck is beautifully painted in a cartoony and fun scene of Frankenstein’s monster chasing barnyard animals. It looks cool, and that’s enough I suppose.