(Update: When I wrote this, Wicked Awesome was mostly alternating between the Lebanon Green and the Norwich Green, but since then, they’ve established a more-or-less regular presence at Huggetts Mini Mart in East Thetford, VT)
One of the downsides of living in Northern New England is that the climate here doesn’t really lend itself to outside dining most of the year. So, while much of the country (such as the Austin area I reviewed in April) has been enjoying a substantial food cart renaissance, with all sort of entrepreneurs deciding to open up their own restaurants (or mobile versions of their brick and mortar stores), the trend hasn’t been as wildly popular here.
But it has still been on the uptick. A few years ago the food cart action around the Upper Valley was primarily consisting of hot dog carts, primarily Lisa’s Hot Dogs in Hanover; aside from a brief absence in the early 00′s, Lisa’s cart has been a fixture of summertime Hanover for over a decade. And Colburn Park (aka “The Green”) in Lebanon has sprouted several carts, trucks, and wagons over the years, but primarily it’s been limited to a hot dog cart or two.
Recently, however, several things have changed. First, several of the area’s nascent Farmers Markets, such as Lebanon and Hanover, have grown from being new, small markets that were overshadowed by the large Saturday Norwich Farmers Market, into substantial markets in their own right. So prepared food vendors have several more outlets for their food, which has allowed several vendors to flourish, from Mama Tina’s Tamales, to Vermont Crepe and Waffle, to The Cupcake Queen, to Wicked Awesome BBQ. Second, the economy continues to be soft, so several people have taken this opportunity to go into business for themselves. In any case, Colburn Park in Lebanon has gone from being quiet during weekdays to generally holding three or four food vendors every day at lunchtime, a process that’s been helped by Lebanon coming up with a fairly cheap vendor permit system for the park (a 90-day seasonal vendor pass for Colburn runs around $100).
Wicked Awesome BBQ falls into both of these camps. Run by local chef David Mcinnis, Wicked Awesome BBQ is basically a catering business that supplements their business selling BBQ out of a mobile stand. Several days a week, he and his partner Debbie haul their trailer to a local park (the location varies, consider checking out his facebook page to know where he’s setting up), set up a tent and tables, and start selling a decent menu of BBQ products (pulled pork, ribs, and turkey being the common items), along with cole slaw and drinks. It’s a limited menu, but covers the basics.
I opted for the basic pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw. This was a good basic pulled pork sandwich; the meat was actually smoked to tenderness (as opposed to oh-so-many places that just smoke it a bit and then chp it), a good smoke note, and a sauce that complemented the meat instead of hiding it. The cole slaw was decent as well, with a good tangy sauce that wasn’t overly creamy, and a good amount of red cabbage in it. It’s the sort of cole slaw that I always think pairs well with pork BBQ.
Carol went for the gusto, however, and opted for a combo platter of ribs and a turkey leg. The result was a dinosaur-sized BBQ turkey leg and some ribs. Both of these were pretty good. The turkey leg had really good bark on it and good smoke penetration, so the entire leg had a nice smoke flavor throughout. The ribs were soft and tender, with that nice pinkish-red smoke line in it that shows that these ribs were smoked correctly. If there was anything off to my tastes, I thought that both of these items were a bit dependent on the sauce, and that the sauce was a bit on the sweet side. Still, some decent BBQ for the area.
Overall, Wicked Awesome was some pretty good BBQ. To be honest, it’s not the best BBQ I’ve had around here (I think Bare Bone up in Fairlee gives them a run for the money, as well as having a broader menu), but it was good, decent, barbecue with a good flavor. If I was running the stand, I’d probably soften the sauce sweetness a bit, and maybe see if I could get some brisket going, but I’m happy to know that several times a week I’ve got the opportunity to get some good ribs or pulled pork.