Lilian's Smokin' Rack Barbecue is a Somerville-based mobile food truck that sets up for lunch service at various locations around Boston on weekdays. As of this writing, the schedule is Charlestown Navy Yard on Mondays, different Greenway locations on Tuesdays and Thursdays, City Hall Plaza on Wednesdays and Belvidere Street near the Prudential Center on Fridays. Ordering and pickup are both done at the window. The owner is a transplanted Texan. In May 2014, a Zagat listicle named Lilian's one of the ten hottest food trucks in the country.
As appropriate for a food truck, the selections are streamlined, with pulled pork or chicken as sliders ($3.50), sandwiches ($8) or a sandwich with a side and a drink ($11). On my visit, St Louis cut pork ribs (two or three ribs for $8) were available. I've heard she occasionally does a Texas style beef rib and clam chowder (maybe only in colder months).
With a day off from work and no other (read: more long distance) plans, I took advantage of the rare opportunity to check out Lilian's Smokin' Rack.
Pork ribs: Talk about a mystery date. I opened up the styrofoam container with great anticipation, only to hear the you-just-lost horn music from The Price Is Right as the ribs came into startling view. The "two or three" ribs wound up being only two, somewhat small, very pale and not at all fresh looking. They reminded me of rib leftovers taken straight out of the fridge and reheated just enough to get them warm but not enough to combat the congealed fat. That's exactly what they tasted like—or felt like, anyway. Very minimal crusting transitioned to a tender bite that had a vagely stewey quality from a past life. I noticed the rub contributions but neither smoke nor smoky aftereffects. Overall flavor was somewhat porky but rather bland before adding sauce. There's no getting around it: these ribs were an embarrassment bordering on insult. The cornbread muffin was only somewhat redeeming.
Pulled pork slider: Served in a different container, the slider appeared much more promising. An instant plus—and ultimately the highlight—was the fresh and flaky ciabatta-like roll. Between the halves, lightly sauced pulled pork sat in a generous serving of shreds that beneath the sauce was dry. Smoke was again AWOL. Bark too. But to its credit, the meat had a porkier flavor than the ribs with more noticeable seasonings. Enough to warrant another? No, but just enough to make it passable (think sandwich instead of barbecue sandwich), especially with some pour-it-yourself sauce added. If only the pork were as fresh as the outstanding roll.
Two choices are available in bottles. One is a slightly sweet tomato based sauce with what feels like minced onion to give it character. The other is a slightly chunky hot sauce best used on the pulled pork. I enjoyed both.
Cole slaw: Crisp, just creamy enough and interesting, with some ingredient I couldn't identify. I should have put some on my slider.
Collard greens: A simple meatless preparation got the leaves cooked and kept them moist without overpowering the natural vegetable flavor or making them soggy.
Cornbread: A muffin with ordinary flavor but fresh and served slightly warm.
Pricing is noticeably higher than at sit down restaurants serving similar food at higher quality.
The Texas staple of brisket might not be best suited for a food truck, but sausage is much more forgiving and would make a nice addition.
In a perfect world, I'd visit Lilian's at least one time before compiling a review, but in the real world I'm not close enough for weekday lunches and they don't setup on weekends. I'd like to hope I simply caught them on an off day, but according to a few trusted moles who've tried the food a couple times, that's probably not the case.
The Bottom Line
Go for the convenience, not as a destination.
Yelp reviews of Lilian's Smokin' Rack Barbecue (TBD)
Urbanspoon reviews of Lilian's Smokin' Rack Barbecue
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