Food courts made from repurposed shipping containers have been a boon to fledgling restaurateurs, lowering barriers for entry into the business.
For diners, they offer the advantages of greater selection at affordable prices and the opportunity to discover some hidden gems.
Case in point: SA BBQ at Green Jeans Farmery, the warren of shipping containers near Interstate 40 and Carlisle NE.
SA recently opened in a spot formerly occupied by Chumly’s Southwestern, which is moving to a new shipping container development at Alameda and San Pedro.
The new place’s name is the first letters of the owners’ last names. The logo, designed to look like a piece of graffiti art, fits with the unpretentious spirit of the place.
The vibe was in ample evidence at lunchtime recently. The server showed off the hulking smoker in the back of the kitchen like a proud father. He also provided samples of hot links and jalapeño sausages made on-site. Both were excellent, with a good seasoning level and a manageable kick of heat.
The brief menu offers a variety of barbecued meats delivered in a bowl, on top of a baked potato or as sliders. The restaurant has regular, spicy and mustard-based sauce. All three are more tangy than sweet. On the day I visited, SA was selling a barbecued jackfruit slider for vegetarians.
As with most places at Green Jeans, ordering is done at the counter and the server finds you among the array of indoor and outdoor seating scattered across two levels.
With temperatures creeping above 60, I opted for an outdoor picnic table just beyond the range of an overhead heater that was threatening to broil everything underneath it. The sliders, served in brioche buns filled to overflowing with slaw and meat, arrived just a few minutes after I ordered. The pulled-pork version ($3.99) was outstanding. The smoke and seasoning aid and abet the pork flavor without overwhelming it, and the preparation leaves behind a pleasing combination of chunks and strings. The slaw, crunchy and creamy, complemented it well.
The pulled pork was a tough act to follow, but the chicken slider ($4.20) held its own. Made from mostly white meat, it had moisture and textural variation.
The smoked-out spud ($6.99) offers a much different flavor profile than that of the sliders, thanks to the cheddar cheese sauce with red chile crema on top. I liked the runny consistency of the cheese sauce. It helped cut through the starch of the potato, and the red chile crema brought just enough heat to be noticed. I got mine with beef brisket for an extra $1. The shredded brisket was moist and tender and together with the saucy cheese tasted like the inside of a good Philly cheesesteak.
Also on the plate was a complimentary side of borracho beans, cooked in beer and pork. The beans were cooked just right, with a nice balance of smokiness and heat.
The free samples reflect SA BBQ’s justifiable pride in its food and its eagerness to share it with you. It’s easily some of the best barbecue in town, and its Green Jeans Farmery location means that beer and spirits are nearby. Check it out before the lines start getting long.