by Alice Levitt
If you think the only way to get chef Brian Stefan's mobile Southern specialties is braving the crowds at the weekly South End Food TruckStop (right), you've been missing out.
Southern Smoke has become my Wednesday ritual when it parks behind the Seven Days offices at Maglianero. But last week, I missed the boat (er, truck) and needed to get my fix at the South Burlington Farmers Market on Sunday after picking up beautiful garlic scapes, cilantro and lettuce from Lewis Creek Farm.
It turns out, Stefan was feeling keen on scapes, too. He used them in the creamy mint-green sauce that painted his fish tacos in a light wash of garlic flavor. The chef has a way with fresh sauces. I still drool when I think about his lamb and quinoa burrito with spicy cucumber-leek sauce.
But these tacos were wonderful in their own way. Finely sliced zucchini melded with chopped yellow tomatoes beneath a sturdy slab of mild pollock. I usually prefer corn tortillas to flour ones, but with the fish, the skin-like softness of this one was a sensuous treat.
Still, I found the smoked pork sandwich even more irresistible. There's a reason that it's not called a "pulled pork" sandwich like most of its brethren.
The meat in this sammie is ultra-tender, with exactly the right amount of smoke to flavor the pork but not overwhelm it. But it's sliced, not pulled or chopped. The big, chunky pieces, with just a bit of crispy char on the outside, are a far more satisfying bite than pulled strands.
The tomato-based barbecue sauce seems redundant against to the flavorful meat, but I wouldn't enjoy the sandwich as much without the tangy pickled cabbage, cucumbers and carrots that lend an acidic crunch to the soft roll.
Southern Smoke's uncommon recipes even convinced me to try something that I usually avoid: potato salad.
I still didn't eat much of it, but it wasn't because the side dish (just $1 with a sandwich) didn't sparkle. Rather than mayonnaise-laden chunks of starch, Stefan's salad is basically a dish of smashed potatoes that tingles with garlic. The taste reminded me more of great hummus than the gooey potato salads I abhor.
Still, it won't be on my to-do list any Wednesday soon. There are so many other delicious dishes to try.
Here's the where/when for Southern Smoke:
Wednesday: Maglianero (11 a.m.); Thursday: Burton Snowboards (11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.); Friday: Magic Hat Brewery (11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.), South End Food TruckStop (4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.); Sunday: South Burlington Farmers Market (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Photo of South End Food TruckStop by Matthew Thorsen.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.