Location: NE 52nd and Sandy, Rose City Food Park
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 11:30am-late night
The Story: I never grew up with barbecue culture. Yeah, we grilled, yet what came off the grill was nothing like ribs or brisket or pulled pork I enjoy when I travel to the south or beyond. Whole regions of this country have barbecue in their blood dating back centuries and people will fight to defend their recipe. Here in Portland, we have some wonderful options for que and a newcomer in Barbeque The Blues is here to show you a Texas/Alabama style.
TJ McNabb opened his food truck at the Rose City Food Park earlier this year, yet it hasn’t been till this summer that he’s been able to hit his stride and feed the masses. The truck, a fully outfitted 24 footer is simply beautiful. One of the best looking and best outfitted trucks I have seen. He also has a tow-behind trailer with his grill and smoker, so if you’re looking for barbecue at your next event, he may become your new best friend. TJ has done his time in kitchens for most of his life having classically trained under an amazing chef in France. When he did finally return to the states, he built and opened a few restaurants in southern Oregon. But it was time spent with friends from Texas and Alabama that inspired him to take on the challenge that is barbecue. His meat mentor asked him if he wanted to learn the trade. TJ jumped at the opportunity and after more than a few years, now has his own successful business. TJ put together a nice plate of items for me and we sat around that evening discussing food, the city, history and, well, ribs and brisket.
The menu at Barbeque The Blues is what you would expect with pulled chicken or pork, tri-tip and plenty of sides including mac ‘n cheese, beans and slaw. On Friday and Saturday, TJ rolls out the ribs. Everything is made fresh daily with the meats cooking for hours to perfect the tenderness. Being a rib fan, I dove into the tray of bone in pork ribs. Homemade sauce was provided, yet just pulling off a bit of meat was enough for me to experience TJ’s craft. A bit of caramelizing met my tongue with every bite. TJ smokes the ribs for 4 hours before placing them in foil with some cane sugar and water which creates that simple sweet crust. A side of Sonora sauce is provided for dipping. The sauce is inspired by the Sonoran dessert- evocative of southwestern flavors. Four different heat sources – black pepper, habanero, red pepper flake and cayenne – mixed with the organic apple juice and other spices creates a heat profile that is present, yet not overpowering with a hint of sweetness on the edges. You can enjoy the ribs with or without the sauce and you’ll be a happy eater. Finish off the meal with cornbread with green peppers.
So happy to find a new sheriff in town for barbecue. On Friday and Saturday nights, they do rib dinners and the evening I visited, TJ had leg of lamb on the board. This is a meat lovers’ cart. If you’re in search of some great ribs or brisket or pulled chicken, drop on by Rose City Food Park and try some Barbeque The Blues. Let TJ know Food Carts Portland sent ya.
Full menu listed on their website.
- Slow Hand – BBQ Pulled Pork 1/3rd lb sandwich with slaw and pickle – $6
- Chickin’ Pickin’ – BBQ Pulled Chicken 1/3rd lb sandwich with slaw and pickle - $5
- Texas Twang – BBQ thinly sliced tri-tip - 1/3rd lb sandwich with slaw and pickle – $7
- Power Trio – all three smoked meats – $10
- Combo Plates – one, two or three meats with sides – range from $7-13
- Sides: Mac & Cheese, BBQ Beans – $2.50