One of the hallmark joys in the major culinary capitals of the South is one’s ability to find excellent meats in unlikely places. A random outing in Tucson, Austin, New Orleans, or Asheville is bound to uncover a truck or trailer, back lot or back bar, or roadside shack serving up carne seca, smoky lechon, chopped whole hogs, or brisket so tender it wiggles like jello.
Minnesota is patiently working on a collection of similar and somewhat clandestine smoked meats: a Friday-only trailer on St. Paul’s West Side, a convenience store deli counter, a pop-up smoking project sprouting a take-out shack, a summertime-only stall in the suburbs.
Add to that list Animales Barbecue Company, the work of Bachelor Farmer alum and former Growler columnist Jon Wipfli. His red barbecue trailer has taken up residence in the shady tree-and-bench-filled patio outside Able Seedhouse + Brewery. He’s only open Thursday-Sunday until sold out, which is quicker than you might expect, thanks to a consistent and crushing demand since opening this summer. So plan on arriving shortly into service, and the meat gods will reward you justly.
His daily offerings are scribbled on butcher paper and just as quickly crossed out as the hungry masses devour his short ribs, hot guts, brisket, and sides. We’ve loved every meat Wipfli has ever put to flame, but find ourselves at Animales on Saturdays, when he’s likely to have tacos on special.
Last weekend, we found his hefty scratch-made tortillas topped with huge chunks of achingly tender pork shoulder, complete with shards of obsidian bark and a rosy pink smoke ring, and sprinkled with queso fresco, pickled red onions, and salsa verde. A massive amount of pork demands a sturdy shell, and his do the trick: thick and pliable, with some crisp to the outside and a chewy center. Tortillas from fresh masa are in short supply in the North: kudos to chefs like Wipfli, Ann Kim, and Alex Roberts who respect and promote this staple of North American eating.
If the tacos are sold out by the time you arrive, you might just have to settle for a quarter-pound of pork with nothing but a fork and a beer. And you know, that’s not the worst outcome we can imagine.
The Dish: Tacos at Animales Barbecue Co., ~$11.
The Place: Able Seedhouse + Brewery, 1121 Quincy St. N.E., Minneapolis
The Reason: Because expertly smoked meats deserve scratch-made tortillas.
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