Food truck review: BBQ Proper shows off award-winning pitmaster’s smoky craft

Getting a meal from the BBQ Proper food truck is a little like getting invited to a neighbor’s backyard cookout – a neighbor, that is, who happens to have won a couple of barbecue cook-offs.

Owner Rob Henson was kitchen manager and pitmaster for Ladyfingers catering for four years before putting his food truck on the road last spring. He’s taken home prizes from competitions in Apex and Rocky Mount.

Don’t let Henson’s South Georgia accent fool you. The man can flat-out cook some North Carolina-style pork. He calls it “Raleigh style,” an apt reference to the city’s location on the boundary between traditional Eastern and Western styles. On the plate (or on the bun), that translates to Boston butts smoked over hickory, then fine-chopped and tossed with a twangy vinegar-based sauce with a touch of ketchup – a hybrid of the two styles that only a pigheaded purist would turn up his nose at.

As good as the pork is, Henson’s blue cheese brisket is even better. After smoking the brisket low and slow for eight hours, he coats it with blue cheese crumbles and smokes it for four more. By the time it’s is done, you can barely see traces of the cheese on the outer crust of the meat. But you can taste the flavor all the way through, as it has somehow permeated the meat, giving it an umami funk that calls to mind a dry-aged steak.

Add some of Henson’s thick, spicy-sweet South Georgia sauce if you like. But do yourself a favor and try the brisket just as it is before making the commitment.

You can get either of these smoked meats on a sandwich or as part of a plate (OK, a styrofoam clamshell; it’s a food truck) with your choice of two sides. “Doctored” baked beans, riddled with shreds of smoked pork belly and amped up with Tabasco, are a winner. So are blue cheese slaw and, if you’re a fan of down home Southern cooking, ham hock green beans.

BBQ Proper
“French fries & onions” from BBQ Proper. // Photo by Juli Leonard

 

Be advised that the “onions” in a side called “French fries & onions” doesn’t refer to onion rings. They’re caramelized onions, and they’re paired with crinkle cut fries for an offbeat – and surprisingly satisfying – combination. (Pro tip: That South Georgia barbecue sauce is a refreshing alternative to plain ketchup for the fries.)

If you’re still hungry after all that food, treat yourself to a dish of banana pudding. It’s made using Henson’s mom’s recipe and incorporates sour cream and sweetened condensed milk for extra richness.

I haven’t yet tried the ribs or the smoked wings, or the chili that Henson makes using a recipe he adapted from one he found in a Georgia Bulldogs cookbook (another culinary gift from his mom). The smoker sometimes turns out smoked turkey breast, and chicken quarters that the couple behind us in line said were excellent, but they weren’t on the menu when my wife and I tracked down the BBQ Proper truck a few weeks ago.

I’m already looking forward to a return visit when I can sample some more of Rob Henson’s smoky craft. And it’s nice to know I don’t have to wait for an invitation to his next backyard cookout.

BBQ Proper

Prices: sandwiches $7-9, meat and two sides $10-13
Website: bbqproper.com
Twitter: @bbqproper

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