Friends and readers, I feel I need to come clean about something here, something that I’ve never really kept hidden, but which may not have been stated clearly enough: I am a meat lover. Voracious, unrepentant and insatiable. This is not to say that I don’t love fruit and veggies, but if the world was ending in a few hours I wouldn’t be throwing together a salad for my last meal.
All sarcasm aside, I’ve gone on at great lengths about my favorite places for a protein fix, whether it’s pulled pork from Big Daddy’s Barbecue (opening an actual restaurant soon!) or Greg Lamm’s (formerly of Brick 29 Bistro / B29 Streatery, now at Red Feather Lounge / Bittercreek Alehouse) unique and challenging interpretations of classic comfort foods. Today I want to talk about someone else, a man who makes classic meat dishes sing, and who works in protein the way Picasso worked in paints. Which is to say that the guy is creative and his food is really good, ya dig?
I first met Brian Garrett at a Boise Urban Market event just over a year ago. He was at a table slicing up brisket and piling it on top of mini cornbread waffles with a bit of slaw.
|Brisket and cornbread waffle slider|
You can’t really go wrong with barbecue and cornbread, but this presentation was a new one on me. A sign named the little gastro endeavor as Saint Lawrence Gridiron, which is frankly such a clever and wicked reference that I would have given the guy my money if he was serving store-bought frozen hockey puck burgers. Luckily, that wasn’t the case. The meat was delectable, the waffle light and perfectly cooked, and the sauce and slaw accompanied nicely without interfering. I left that market not knowing if I’d ever see anything more from SLG, but sincerely hoping I would.
|Carolina-style pulled pork sliders|
A month later, another BUM event and there was Brian again, this time pushing pork sliders on potato rolls with more slaw and a choice of Carolina-style sauces: vinegar or mustard based. Once again I was surprised, this time by the fact that I finally tried a mustard sauce that I truly enjoyed. Damn good, but nothing could have prepared me for what was next…
|Pork belly slider with huckleberry reduction|
A few months would pass before I encountered SLG again, once again at a a BUM function, and this time Brian served up one of my absolute favorite things I’ve ever eaten: a perfectly prepared cube of pork belly on a slider roll with a touch of aioli, sprouts and a huckleberry reduction. The purists among you might cringe at that last bit (but then again maybe not, this is Idaho after all), and I certainly had my doubts. In the end, it was the only thing I went back for seconds of that night. I remember thinking at the time that this guy was too good to be held to a once-every-month-or-two market for long. It wasn’t long after that that I began to hear the first rumblings about Brian putting a food truck together.
And sure enough, that’s exactly what he did. The process was chronicled painstakingly on SLG’s Facebook page, and I checked daily for new updates. The truck is easily one of the two most ambitious to hit Boise (the other being B29’s, of course), and Brian even brought on James Patrick Kelly (ex-Statesman food critic) as a worker and menu consultant.
|Boise Cheese Steak|
The truck hit the road the first week of April. I caught up with them that weekend at Payette Brewing and by then there was already plenty of talk about the Boise Cheese Steak sandwich, so that’s what I ordered. I took a woman along on our first date (of two). She ordered the Fried Mac n Cheese, which she didn’t end up caring for. I thought it was just fine, and in the end I didn’t end up caring much for her, so circle of life or something. I thought the MnC was fine. Of course I liked my sandwich better though, with its generous amount of thick-sliced brisket, cheddar ale sauce, and pickled onions and peppers. A little messy and another item sure to irritate purists, but a very good sandwich which seems to be a permanent menu fixture. I’m pretty picky about how brisket is prepared, and Brian has never disappointed me.
|Smoked Meatloaf Sandwich|
The following weekend, I eschewed that month’s Food Truck Rally in favor of hitting up SLG for another offering that was generating a fair amount of buzz, the Smoked Meatloaf Sandwich. I love pretty much anything smoked (and Brian, genius that he is, has a smoker IN the truck), and this sandwich offered not only smoked meat loaf but a very generous portion of smoked gorgonzola cheese as well! Oh, there was a little aioli, picked veg and some chives thrown in as well. I loved this sandwich, but Brian seemed a little bothered that I didn’t proclaim it the best meatloaf I’d ever tasted (a distinction reserved for MY meatloaf…you just can’t beat nostalgia sometimes). This menu item has unfortunately, but perhaps rightly, been shelved for the Summer months. So, sorry if you haven’t tried it and I got your hopes up. Hey, it’ll be Fall before you know it, so feel free to hassle Brian about bringing it back.
|Burnt Ends Poutine|
Last month I hit the truck again, this time playing at the Food Truck Rally with the other big kids. On this occasion, I was there to check out his Burnt Ends Poutine, another decidedly non-traditional take on a classic dish. For those unfamiliar, it’s generally a pile of fries smothered in gravy and topped with cheese curds. Brian’s version replaces the gravy with a more concentrated sauce, the curds with a mix of cheddar sauce and gorgonzola, and adds burnt brisket ends and chives. This is a decadent dish, my friends. Don’t feel threatened if you have to split it with someone.
This review is long overdue and I’d like to think that the SLG truck is pretty widely known by now, but I’m happy to spread the word just in case. Brian is pretty good about keeping his social networking profiles updated, so your best bet is to find him via Facebook or Twitter. Trust me, if you’re a carnivore you owe it to yourself.
Food: Nobody else in town is doing stuff quite like this, and few people working the truck scene bring this level of skill. A+
Value: I’ll admit it, the stuff isn’t cheap, but it’s definitely a case of getting what you pay for. A
Service: There’s just something awesome about getting food from friendly people who so obviously love what they’re doing. A+
Atmosphere: Depends on where the truck is, but Brian brings a lot of atmosphere with him. A
Final Grade: A+