Ever since I moved to this city in 1999 I have been on the hunt for good barbecue. Each barbecue place usually has a few great dishes, but there's never a sense of consistency. Sometimes the burnt ends are rock hard or the pulled pork is cold, but mostly the rubs and sauces are never as good as they could be.
The closest thing to classic barbecue I've had in Central Oregon was at the Pickled Pig above the Bend Airport. Every dish from the sausage to the brisket was delicious, but the airport is a bit of a drive for those that are lazy and hungry like myself.
Enter Curb B Q, a food truck that's not only been around since 2004, but that is quietly making some of the most delicious meat treats I've had in over 15 years. Located in the food cart pod at Spoken Moto (along with a few of the best food trucks in Central Oregon), Curb B Q deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as Baldy's, Wubba's, Slick's, Cody's Cook Shack and the rest.
"We bought the food truck six years ago, converted it over a year and a half and went full up and running in 2012. We mostly did private and special events here and there and started solely food trucking last summer," says co-owner Bryan Illingworth. "We were located over by Atlas until moving here. We don't really do the festivals anymore because it's more of a politics game with them."
A few weeks ago, the Source staff had a little party at Spoken Moto and I noticed everyone eating what looked like the most delicious grilled cheese sandwich ever made. It was packed with smoked brisket, melted jack and American cheese, dripping in barbecue sauce and imprisoned by fresh, grilled sourdough. Everyone eating the comfort-food delight was moaning and being mostly unintelligible, so I figured I had to try one myself.
Proprietors Bryan and Jennifer Illingworth have a menu filled with things I wanted to try, but that grilled cheese was calling my name. As I ordered, Bryan looked at me with zero nonsense and said, "You should order the special." I'm sure most of you know this, but when the chef tells you to order the special, you order the special. This time that special was a jalapeno cheeseburger and it was, without hyperbole, the best burger I've had in Bend.
"We weren't interested in doing just one genre of BBQ," says Bryan. "You're gonna get your Texas which is all pepper and salt and that's it. Or you go to Kansas City and it's all tomato based. If you go to Carolina it's all vinegar. In California you're going to get your tri-tip. We pulled all those flavors together and said, 'This is what West Coast BBQ is.'"
When I went back for the purposes of this review, Jennifer said I should get a sampler of everything, which, to be a good and thorough reviewer, is always a good idea. Little did I know that meant a sampling of everything on the menu. I was also unaware of the depth of my hunger, since my dining companion and I ate everything they put in front of us.
We started with the chicken BBQ wrap, which had a flavor complexity that didn't quit. The mouth-watering white meat chicken was wrapped in a light spinach tortilla, fresh greens and a tasty black bean and corn salsa. Doused in a smokey chipotle mayo, the wrap gave off a spice that accentuated everything without overwhelming with heat.
The pulled pork sandwich was perfect: not too heavy and the balance of the tart slaw made everything texturally delicious. The smoked salmon and cilantro-lime chicken tacos were excellent, with the marinade on the pulled chicken making me sad when it was all gone.
That led us to the brisket grilled cheese. It was even better than it looked, with the brisket so tender that it fell apart in the mouth. The BBQ sauce was thick and spicy, almost like a mole but without the chocolate notes.
"We're not trying to say we're re-inventing anything, but our brisket's mainly Texas-style, our BBQ sauce is Kansas City, our slaw is vinegar based. I think it all works together," says Bryan. It absolutely all works together and, whether they're re-inventing or not, you've never tasted anything quite like it.
310 SW Industrial Way, Bend
Tues-Wed, 1-5pm; Thurs, 11am-6pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-9pm
See online for updates, curbbqbend.com