Monday, May 30, 2011

KarnaVor Gourmet BBQ

KarnaVor Gourmet BBQ is a food truck patrolling Salem, Oregon. What makes this place unique? They combine good ol' American BBQ meat creations and fuse it with more on-the-go-friendly Mexican dishes like tacos and quesadillas -- or "K-sa-dillas." And of course, they also have the traditional BBQ sandwich options as well.

There were two female customers also at KarnaVor, also first-time customers. They worked in the area and wanted to check KarnaVor out as well. They were from Washington, D.C., and I immediately brought up Ben's Chili Bowl (they knew what I was talking about). They thought Ben's chili was delicious, just not the greatest thing ever. I'd try that Chili Half-Smoke at Ben's in a heartbeat -- or just straight chili.

Anyway, the two women shared each of the three tacos (pulled pork, pulled chicken, and beef brisket) for $6 total -- $2 per taco. Both ladies ate the tacos at the food truck counter and gave overwhelmingly positive reviews for all three; they preferred the beef one over the other two.

Good enough for me! I got one of each myself and took the food home to eat.

Pulled chicken taco
Pulled beef brisket taco
Pulled pork taco
The meats were each put on two corn tortillas, then topped with cole slaw (made fresh every morning), cilantro, and...dried cranberries and slivered almonds?! Interesting. The presentation of each taco was nice and colorful.


The tacos were awesome. The ladies were on the money. The beef brisket taco had awesome flavor. The crunchiness and creaminess of the cole slaw complemented the beef well. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the chef added celery in his cole slaw, which gave the taco a little more bite and crunch. The fresh cilantro on top added another nice Mexican flare to the dish.

With respect to flavor, the cranberries and the almonds got a little lost in the fray, but I appreciate the texture contrasts each of the ingredients bring to the taco. I did get a little nuttiness from the almonds as I kept eating the tacos. The cranberries and almonds are definitely two ingredients I did not expect and go toward that "Gourmet BBQ" presence KarnaVor strives for.

Same reviews with the pork and the chicken. Again, all three choices produced very flavorful meats that went well with the rest of the taco. You really can't go wrong with any of the choices. My order of preference: (1) chicken; (2) pork; (3) beef. Very hard to separate first place from second place -- or even first place from third place.

I also like how KarnaVor cooks their food to order. Fresh food is so key, and I'm amazed how many establishments miss that step. I didn't mind waiting the extra five minutes for my food.

At $2 per taco, I think it's worth it to go and check KarnaVor's tacos out for yourself. And while you're at it, try their sandwiches, quesadillas, hot dogs, or garden burgers, and tell me what you think. 7/10

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