Maybe after the “downturn” is finally over, this era will come to be remembered not for the fall of AIG and Lehman Brothers, but for the rise of the Twitter food truck. Kogi was only the beginning, the first in a Darwinian progression, a gradual hybridization of ethnic food, mobile kitchens, and a cell phone-addicted populace. One of the latest portable eateries to take to the Los Angeles streets is Barbie’s Q, a BBQ truck run by John Bowler, his wife Martha and–at least during the summer break–their 19 year-old daughter Jenny. The Bowlers had a quiet opening about a month ago, and for the last 2 weeks have been parked on Abbot Kinney in Venice. This weekend they’ve moved a few blocks down the street, and Jenny has been getting the word out on Facebook and Twitter. Tonight they set up at 6, with Jenny (who is conveniently studying restaurant management in college) taking orders for baby back and St. Louis ribs, pulled pork, shredded smoked chicken, beef brisket, and sliders. Martha worked inside the truck putting the orders together. Bowler turned on Billie Holliday. “We always have the blues playing; you have to, come on!”
Bowler (whose official title is Pit Boss) is hardly new to the restaurant game: he owned a Hermosa Beach bar and grill for 25 years, before leaving to do consulting and dream about opening his own BBQ place. A few months ago, when he was still trying to figure out the logistics of a traditional brick and mortar restaurant, Bowler started reading stories about the success of the Kogi truck. “The more I thought about it, the more I thought–brilliant, it’s perfect for BBQ.” Everything is made beforehand, he explained, “we don’t have to cook on the truck.” The sauces and sides (potato salad, coleslaw, beans) are all house-made, the meats rubbed and smoked over a combination of oak and applewood for anywhere from 4 to 12 hours. About the only thing that the Bowlers don’t make is dessert, which comes in the form of the excellent cobblers from Cobblermania, an LA farmers market favorite.
Bowler says that the folks at Kogi have been really helpful, giving him food truck advice and even offering to share space. “There’s a real camaraderie about this; it’s a community.” With the US jobless rate now at 9.4%, watch for more eateries hitting the road. Low overhead, no worries about that pesky building lease. And best of all, you can fire your PR firm and hire your teenage kid instead. Your ad here, in 140 characters or less.
Barbie’s Q, parked on Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. Thursdays through Saturdays, about 6 – 10 p.m. www.barbiesq.com; (310) 318-0026.
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