Guest article by Jonas White
In Austin, barbecue is religion. There are devotees of the Church of Franklin, disciples of La Barbecue, and followers of many other local barbecue faiths. The quality and quantity of smoked meat destinations in Austin are true highlights of our city. While this is great for Austin residents and visitors, all the options can make it difficult for a smaller operation to make a name for itself. Luckily, for every Goliath, there’s a brisket-smoking, pork-pulling David hoping to stand out.
From the moment you see Rollin Smoke BBQ’s pink, spray-painted trailer at East 6th and Comal, you can tell they do things differently. With East Texas barbecue flavors and late night hours, Rollin Smoke does more than hold its own in a crowded field.
Finding a Niche for Rollin Smoke BBQ
Rollin Smoke owner Kyle Stallings has been carving out his barbecue niche since 2012. He worked hard to understand what it takes to offer quality products in a city with high standards. “I just absorbed all the information I could get from wherever I could get it,” he shared.
Unintentionally, though perhaps symbolically, the trailer sits in the middle of an imaginary line between Franklin and La Barbecue. Ever-growing east Austin feels like the right place for up-and-coming Rollin Smoke. “We love it here; we wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. We’ll stay here as long as we can,” said Stallings.
The trailer serves lunch and dinner, but is unique in that it also holds late night hours for the bar-hopping crowd. Open until 2:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 3:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday, Rollin Smoke serves those who could probably stand to get some food in their bellies. “We are putting out fresh and quality food all night long. A lot of people will tell me, ‘You’re overcooking for these drunk people,’” Stallings laughs. “But…that’s what we want to do.” Yes, they cook for the late night crowd, but make no mistake, this isn’t “drunk food.” This is “take-your-parents-here-when-they-visit food.”
East Texas Flavors
“There’s great barbecue out in East Texas that is actually pretty under the radar,” Stallings said of his native region. “Out there, they have some different influences from different regions.” Stallings internalized this melding of styles and it shows in the food Rollin Smoke crafts. “We don’t go by regional guidelines. We just do what we like.”
As it turns out, what they like is also what I like. I dug into the baby back pork ribs, the weekly special. The meat fell off the bone. It had a sweet and spicy combo so packed with flavor, I found barbecue sauce totally unnecessary.
The baby back pork ribs, usually available on Fridays, are one of the many Rollin Smoke daily specials that keep Stallings and his team busy. For instance, there’s the dinosaur beef ribs on Saturdays and taco specials on Sundays. For a mouthwatering look at the truck’s various specials, follow them on Instagram. WARNING: Dangerous to see on an empty stomach.
But Next, Brisket
Briskets are smoked for an average of 11 hours in Rollin Smoke’s onsite smoker. When I tried some, it was as tender as I’d hoped. The unique, East Texas rub overwhelmed my pallet. I dipped each succulent bite into homemade barbecue sauces. The lighter sauce was Stalling’s Bulleit Bourbon (“my new baby,” as he calls it). Its strong and liquor-y taste stays true to the Rollin Smoke theme of original and delicious.
Cheese? Oh, Yeah.
The smoked mac-n-cheese used to be a special, but it’s almost always on the menu now. People want it, and I can see why. I also tried the jalapeño and cheddar sausage. It had a kick that reminded me to slow down and take a breath every once in a while.
Everything’s Bigger in Texas
As I started on my sandwich of pulled pork and spicy coleslaw, packed densely inside a freshly-baked bun, I had trouble imagining how big the most popular menu item, the Playboy, would be. The Playboy contains chopped brisket, sausage, and pulled pork. I figure I’ll get the answer to my question on my next visit. You know, for research purposes…
Delicious barbecue without the long line, late-night hours, and a flavor all its own. Rollin Smoke is right to welcome the competition that comes with serving barbecue in Austin. “It’s a good thing. It makes everybody better,” Stallings believes. In fact, the food truck may not be able to call itself an underdog much longer. For more information, visit Rollin Smoke’s Facebook page.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Have you tried Rollin Smoke BBQ yet?
Jonas White has lived all over the country, but loves his new home city of Austin. He spends his time editing for a Danish publishing house and exploring the food scene, working his way down the list of recommendations he’s received. On weekends, Jonas can often be found showing off the city to his out-of-town friends who seem to always be visiting.
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