The boardwalk at Coney Island on the Fourth of July weekend. The Child is eager for a Nathan's hot dog, but we are hunting for the rumored "BBQ truck" said to be ensconced at "Beer Island."
What is Beer Island? A big vacant lot filled with sand and tables. A shack sells a pricey and nicely curated range of beers (the bartender extolls the virtues of a Belgian cherry beer priced at $4 a bottle wholesale—"Let me educate you!" he says, whipping out the bottle. I order a Sam Adams.) Tonight, the clouds continue to spit a little rain even as the sun breaks through, and crowds are light. Ray Charles on a sound system improves the ambiance.
This irresistible sign leads us to the Red Truck of Rumor. Inside, a chef named Chris McGee, veteran of posh spots like Blue Smoke, tends a promisingly fragrant smoker; outside, his sweet-faced spouse, Kate Larson, waits tables.
I am no BBQ guru, but it's good food. My brisket sandwich is soft and smoky, depending on the feisty sauce for its kick; Spouse's ribs are fantastic. The surprise was the baked beans, the best in my life, succulent with smoker drippings.
From Chris and Kate, we learn that the red truck is a sort of culinary CrazyStable on Wheels. In answer to the obvious question—why did you give up a fast-track chef job to toil in a sandy lot in Coney Island with Port-o-Sans?—the answer seems to be that this fellow loves BBQ like a Kansas City native (which he is) and loves Brooklyn like a New Yorker (which they are now—Bed-Stuy, actually, where he ponders parking the cue-mobile for business in winter). Beer Island, for all its improvised roughness, is actually less stressful than the restaurant world, he says, and indeed both of them looked busy but happy in their shared adventure, feeding the world in Coney Island and encouraging the timid to bypass a hot dog or burger for the deeper mysteries of pulled pork. Good luck, kids; the rest of you, go soon before there are lines like those for Shake Shack.