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Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Smoke Et Al (Nashville, TN)
I had actually packed my lunch today, but when I found out that the Smoke Et Al food truck was at nearby Centennial Park, suddenly my leftover hotdogs lost their charm.
Smoke Et Al labels themselves as a "boutique smokin' food truck that goes beyond just BBQ." I'd say that's highly accurate. The gourmet barbecue food truck game is one that I hope to get into myself someday, so I was very interested to see what these guys could do with their mobile eatery. Judging by all of the enthusiasm that encircled them at Centennial Park, Smoke Et All seems to be doing quite well.
Their proteins and other ingredients are mostly all locally sourced, which means that what you're getting here is super fresh. My biggest dilemma was trying to narrow my lunch order down from the entire menu to just one or two items. In the end, I went with a BBQ Plate of brisket, fried pickled okra, and Yazoo mac n' cheese. I also added on an order of their illustrious Hot Ribs, because meats can be dessert too, right?
The okra was fried beautifully - crisp and lightly battered. Using pickled okra added a whole other dimension of flavor and acidity. It didn't have any of the usual dreaded okra sliminess either. Smoke Et Al serves this side dish with a traditional northern Alabama white barbecue sauce for dipping. The sauce was a perfect accompaniment, adding the right amount of creaminess to both counteract and compliment the acid. Their macaroni is made with Yazoo brewery's Gerst amber ale, a three-cheese blend, smoked Cheetos, and scallions. This concoction is one that you really need to try in order to fully understand and appreciate. The play between the gooey cheese and the crunchy Cheetos is amazing, and I loved the added bite of the green onion as well.
Smoke Et Al sprinkles their marinated, thin-sliced brisket with a little extra dry rub for good measure. The prominent smokiness was readily apparent upon first bite, and the flavors built with each bite thereafter. I also found a fantastic blend of spices on each sampling. The spices didn't detract from the natural beef flavors one bit, instead amplifying things nicely. Their brisket was tender as could be, and the fattier slices were very well rendered. It comes served with a side of barbecue sauce, but trust me, you don't need it.
Hot Ribs are Smoke Et Al's answer to the over-hyped Nashville hot chicken craze. These baby backs definitely pack a punch, but it's worth getting the hot sauce over mild. I saved them for last, both because of the impending heat level and the inevitable mess that I'd make of myself. The ribs are smoked, flash fried, tossed in hot sauce, and sprinkled with an array of spices. That I could still taste the smoke through the sweet/spicy sauce really says a lot. The meat was cooked just right, too: tender enough to come off cleanly with each bite, yet not overcooked such that things were "falling off the bone". In short, they were spectacular.
There are a lot of brick-and-mortar joints who can't hold a candle to Smoke Et Al's barbecue prowess. As the British say, "Well done you!"
Smoke Et Al