In the short five-minute walk between my office and the Re-Up BBQ food cart, at least two strangers have stopped abruptly, stared at my pulled-pork sandwich, and asked where they could buy it. While that’s usually unheard of, when it comes to southern barbecue, it’s understandable: options are limited in town.
It goes without saying that barbecue is somewhat of a religion in the southern US. In Texas alone, hundreds of barbecue cook-offs are held every year. Bitter rivalries form not only between contestants, but between states. As Houston-based writer Robb Walsh describes:
Some argue that the definition of barbecue is meat with a spicy sauce, but some of the best barbecue in Texas is smoked meat with no sauce at all. Some say barbecue means smoked meat, but in Memphis some of the most famous barbecue pork ribs are simply grilled with sauce and no smoke. In the Carolinas, barbecue most often means a sandwich of slow-cooked pulled pork in a spicy sauce. And for a huge number of Americans, ‘barbecuing’ just means cooking hamburgers and hot dogs on a grill in the backyard.
For those whose barbecue pedigree has only involved the backyard grill thus far, take heed: Re Up offers the real deal. While the pulled pork sandwich ($6) is its only meal option at this point in time, what an option it is. The pork is a labour of love, smoked (from what I can tell, Carolina style) for hours, the taste of hickory lingering in the air well after its consumption. The meat falls apart at sight, tender and luscious, and there is plenty of it: this is a sandwich that is loved and loves back. It is topped with a generous amount of fresh coleslaw, and somehow held together by a Portuguese bun in a friendly hug.
The master at work here is Chester Carey, a certified cicerone (think sommelier, but for beer) and the instructor of the Serious Beer class at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. This, of course, makes perfect sense: if there is one marriage better than smoke and meat, it is barbecue and beer, and one can only assume that Carey’s success in beer has naturally imparted a gift in barbecue, the two gifts born as fraternal twins.
One final bit of advice: go early in the day. The cart is small and the line is long, and those folks walking down the street will inevitably find their way to it. As word spreads, supplies will dwindle, and the cart is already running out of pulled pork before the day is done. Take an extended coffee break, as Re-Up is worth skipping out on your daily chores for.
700 Hornby Street (on the NW corner of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Georgia St entrance)