Dick’s Smoke Wagon, Big Pine. While I didn’t get a chance to head to the East Side of California over the summer, I was lucky enough to break away during the winter. However, that means going “around the horn” through Mojave. There are benefits to this route, one being the Indian Wells Brewery in Inyokern the second includes driving through the towns of Lone Pine, Independence, Big Pine and Bishop.
Big Pine, gateway to the Palisades Mountain Range and the Ancient Bristlecone Forest is home to one more local treasure, Dick’s Smoke Wagon. Driving North, on the East Side of Main Street in Big Pine is a large mobile trailer parked on a concrete slab. The trailer is familiar to me, but it’s out of place. This trailer has been parked in Bishop for as long as I can remember. So why is it parked here in Big Pine and why is it parked next to what appears to be a renovated commercial kitchen?
I approach the trailer, walk up the ramp and talk with the sole occupant. After a ‘hello’ the man in the trailer rolls right into telling me the finishing times of each of the things he’s smoking, ribs, ribs, ribs; all several hours away from tender completion. Not good for my time schedule. “But if you’re here for lunch, I’ve got all my sandwiches ready, along with beans, coleslaw, and home-made jalapeno poppers.” Oh yes, I’m ready for lunch.
I proceed to order the bbq pulled pork sandwich with bbq baked beans and a vinegar based coleslaw. But is this a sandwich? The bottom of a small white dinner roll is placed in the middle of the center island of the take-away container and covered with a heaping portion of pork, bbq sauce, and topped with simple slivered cabbage. The top of the bun is laid to rest on the mass of pork. It is as though Dali has influenced the construction and inspiration for the surreal pork sandwich. The perfect unblemished little bun riding on top of pork carnage, underneath, the bun’s other half, immersed in a sea of bbq sauce and pork. Technically a sandwich, meat sandwiched in between two pieces of bread, yet unworkable as a sandwich eaten with your hands. Adding to the total experience and scene, a converted mobile trailer with smoke billowing from the front, parked on an industrial concrete slab, with a view of the snowcapped Sierra Nevada range. A surreal masterpiece!
Normally, people get lazy when they pull pork and allow large hunks of fat to mix in with pure meat. Not at Dick’s Smoke Wagon. Pure meat in my sandwich. The sauce is tangy, not too sweet, with nice spice notes. It’s a balance moment, all the aspects of great sauce. The beans and slaw were very tasty. The coleslaw had more vinegar than mayo, crispy, well integrated and offered a bit of cutting acid to the sweet bbq sauce and the richness of the pork.
I chatted with the pit master a bit after eating my sandwich. We discussed who made the Smoke Wagon, the development of the commercial kitchen, and the upcoming trout season. Before I continued my drive, I figured I’d ask if I could take a bottle of his BBQ sauce.
“Excuse me. Do you bottle your sauce?”
“No, just make it fresh each day depending on what I think I need. If I bottle it, it wouldn’t be fresh would it?”
Now how can I disagree with that?! I hope my readers can make it to Big Pine and try Dick’s Smoke Wagon. They are also on FACEBOOK.