BBQ in the Truckin’ Town
When it comes to barbeque, Chief Paduke doesn’t mess around, just ask the folks who run the annual BBQ Festival each year. When I got word our next stop would be the local food truck, Pigtails BBQ, I couldn’t help but let out a squeal. When we pull up, the first thing we noticed upon arrival wasn’t an over-the-top structure or something blatantly attention-grabbing, it was the smell – and that was all that was needed. As soon as we opened our doors, the scent of freshly pulled pork and masterfully smoked meat hit our nostrils like an ACME anvil. We could have been blindfolded and STILL found our way to the right spot based on the smell of heavenly hog alone.
We made our way to the window and were greeted by Chrystal Garber, the head driver and owner of the flavor-infused food truck along with Alexis Watson, her daughter and personal PR rep, and Shirley Henry, Chrystal’s grandmother. They were accompanied by the truck’s two distinguished chef’s (or the “pigtails” of the operation if you will) Jonathan Dye-namite and Jeffery “BBQ” Bliss. Before spilling the baked beans on the best barbeque you’ll ever receive through a truck window, you must first hear the story how these three little piggy’s decided to go wee wee wee all the way to local fame.
Chrystal Garber started out as a mild-mannered healthcare professional (much like Clark Kent started out as a mild-mannered reporter before embracing his greatness) and her daughter, Alexis, was enrolled in UK when the idea was born. Alexis noticed the food truck business was booming in the college world when she decided to bring it to her mother’s attention. What started out as a hobby and way for her to spend extra time with her daughter quickly evolved into something more. After taking the truck to Lexington on weekends, they began to set their sights on Paducah beginning with food festivals.
Upon completion of their second BBQ On The River competition experience, they won first place in the pulled pork division and third in the chicken division: a feat many seasoned competitors have yet to accomplish. Paducah has since become the main pig pen for the ladies of Pigtails BBQ as they continue to set up locally each day full-time.
I had the honor of sitting down with the man behind the magic, chef Jonathan ‘Dye-namite’. Jonathan boasts a rather impressive backstory from attending Culinary Arts School at WKCTC to leaving behind a legacy at other local hotspots such as Max’s Brick Oven, Freighthouse, and Just Hamburgers (where he says he initially found his creative spark). Let’s just say that “spark” has quickly turned into a wildfire that is currently burning through both the food truck and barbeque industries. Prepare your eyes and bite down on something as you share in the experience of a lunchtime. Here is what the Chefs prepared for me and my crew:
The Smoked Turkey Special
If you can imagine how the month of November would taste, then you’ve subconsciously pictured this sandwich. If Thanksgiving is your favorite holiday then buckle your seatbelt because you’re in for a treat (actually loosen it up, you’ll thank me later). As I opened my styrofoam box, what lay before me were all the makings of a perfect holiday dinner, minus the noisy in-laws. The concoction consisted of Smoked Turkey topped with homemade stuffing, green beans, and cream gravy, served on Cranberry Walnut Bread (compliments of their partnership with Kirchoff’s).
If you’re like the kind of person that likes to mix all the food on their plate at family functions because “it’s all going to the same place” then this one is definitely for you. Just make sure you have 2,000 calories to spare. I’ll end by saying it was a very short pilgrimage to my stomach.
Not only will you need every finger for this one, you might also want a fork and some galoshes. Who goes to a BBQ festival and DOESN’T make a B-line straight to the place that serves the best BBQ nachos? (If you don’t then you’re A. on a diet, B. have a taste bud deficiency, or C. are simply not American.) This would be the line you would run to. If you’re like me, you hate it when you get all excited for a heaping mound of cheese and chunky meaty goodness only to be given the “Lays” bag treatment – except instead of 90% air you get 90% nachos.
With Pigtails BBQ this is not the case. Not only are you getting the best cuts of meat around, you’re also getting plenty of bang for your buck. My fork felt like an extra on the set of 20,000 Leagues Under the Nacho Cheese and it did not want to come up for air. Topped with jalapeno peppers and homemade sweet-savory BBQ sauce, you might want a DD so you don’t fall asleep on your way back to work.
Go Experience Pigtails BBQ for Yourself
If you’re a clever little pig, you’ll keep an eye out for these guys. They have goals to expand their menu over time and you can expect a couple of big surprises on the horizon (cough, cough, at this year’s BBQ On The River festival). While taking liberties with their zany creations, they plan to stay on the healthy tract while accommodating styles of food from a multitude of nationalities. If you’re a vegetarian (and on purpose) then we have good news, vegetarian-friendly menu items are on their way! The master Chef duo will continue to keep their ingredients local while seeking to purchase and use as many organic ingredients as they can. The three generations of safe-serve certified pork perfectionists (Shirley, Chrystal, and Alexis) hope to have multiple trucks in the future and have a dream of seeing Paducah’s food trucks come together and collaborate in an effort to get on a firm rotation schedule. They would also like to work with businesses big and small that don’t provide an opportunity to get food while out and about. In closing, Alexis Watson had this to say:
“Thank you Paducah for all the support, for the movement of becoming food truck friendly, and for paving the way for other local businesses to expand.”
Overall, we had a phenomenal experience and encourage you to venture out and give the food truck scene a go! If you’re on your lunch break and hear the soft hum of generators accompanied by a smell that could bring Cotton Eye Joe to his knees in the parking lot next door, you’re probably in the presence of Pigtails BBQ!