Move over, Billy Joel.
Ari White and his second Wandering Que mobile smokehouse, a 28-foot-long, 7,700-pound mobile custom-built trailer with a wood-burning barbecue pit porch, are sure to make Hackensack famous once again, this time for succulent, Texas-style kosher barbecue. On Thursday evenings, White has joined together with two other local Hackensack business owners to raise $50,000 for the local Center for Food Action, a not-for-profit food pantry and assistance organization, with a menu of new items and classic favorites; those enjoying the Que’s takeout can eat it at outdoor picnic tables next door with freshly poured craft beers.
Last week, for the El Paso, Texas-native’s first Thursday night at the new place, my friend and fellow taster Brooke and I took an Uber to 58 Voorhis Lane, off Johnson Avenue in Hackensack. Before we saw the familiar chuck-wagon-style lights and distressed wood look of White’s food truck, we encountered an industrial area that, we heard later, formerly housed an FBI safehouse, and it definitely looked like an out-of-the-way outpost, though in a perfectly safe, clean loading-dock kind of way, now the home of the Alementary Brewing Co’s newly expanded brewery. The area houses two breweries, in fact: the Alementary, with outside tables in addition to the indoor brewhouse and bar, and the Hackensack Brewery, a few hundred feet away, which also sports indoor seating and welcomes outside food.
Over the next couple of hours we sat outside in the balmy evening, sampling Wandering Que’s offerings, some classic and some new, while also getting refreshed with delicious local beers. Most exciting was White’s offering of slightly smaller plates, riffing on the flights concept for liquor, often employed to taste multiple kinds of a particular beverage without imbibing too much. The Alementary, the brewery next door to Hackensack Glass Company, offers flights of beer—small 4 oz. tasting glasses of each beer—so the taster can compare and contrast and decide which he or she likes best.
White’s smokehouse and catering operation is certified kosher by the Star-K, with a mashgiach temidi on site at all times. For those interested in the beer, the Alementary serves several beers that contain fruit or fruit puree, which regularly present kashrut questions, so be sure to ask which ones they are. However, White is partnering with them on a beer and smoked their peaches for it in his pareve smoker at his Star-K facility, and for the next run of that brew they hope to make it fully under the Star-K’s supervision as well, a batch that will be further aged in bourbon barrels for nine additional months before being bottled. None of the Hackensack Brewery beers contain fruit elements.
Of White’s smokehouse offerings, we particularly enjoyed the out-of-sight smoked chili and cornbread, which neither Brooke nor I had had before (where has it been all our lives?), and the house-crafted Italian sausage and peppers, which were zesty, sweet and flavored beautifully. The brisket sandwiches were on-point, as always; the beef was moist, tender and one of White’s most famous and delectable offerings, served on a soft roll alongside his signature pickled cucumbers and red onions. White also rolled out a new grilled flatbread pizza featuring pulled brisket, pickled onions, baby greens and an incredibly flavorful garlic aioli. We also enjoyed yams that had been fire roasted and then wrapped in foil; we dug out their warm orange goodness with a plastic spoon and paired them with the chili or the sausage.
Over the past several years, the owners of Hackensack Glass, Alementary Brewing Company, and Hackensack Brewing Company have all gotten to know White, as the Wandering Que commissary was housed nearby.
Being in the area created something of an opportunity for Wandering Que, because recent changes in state law mean that breweries can’t serve food or welcome food trucks on their premises. Enter Hackensack Glass, which made its property available to White so he could set up his food truck each week. “It’s the closest thing to a brick-and-mortar we’ll ever have, a wonderful anchor to help us get to know our new neighbors and neighborhood,” White said, explaining that his mobile smoker is now headed for the road five days a week. In his “vast abundant spare time,” White also oversees production of his sausage, lamb bacon and pulled brisket now headed for distribution in 20 states. White’s original businesses, known in various iterations as Gemstone Catering, Hakadosh Barbecue or Got Cholent?, were housed in the Lincoln Park Jewish Center, in Yonkers, which was sold in 2016. In Hackensack, he has just completed a two-year renovation and buildout of his new barbecue smokehouse headquarters, which, in addition to fueling his Wandering Que on the road will serve as a distribution fulfillment center allowing him to ship nationally, from his door to yours.
White also feels strongly that he wants to utilize his time in Hackensack to grow his business while giving back to the community, which is why he’s committed to using his Thursday nights for community outreach and fundraising. “I have vivid memories of my childhood overnights to my grandparents in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where my Grandma Rose would take us to help out at the local soup kitchen. It was perhaps my earliest commercial kitchen experience. In her memory and to celebrate our newcomer status in this part of northern New Jersey I am proud to announce our partnership with Center for Food Action, where we have committed along with two of our neighbors to raise $50K for our neighborhood’s neediest.”
Writing on Instagram, White perhaps said it best: “Come join my team @Wanderingque every Thursday night from here on out on our block #Hackensack nestled between two local breweries (which we can’t mention due to NJ’s new special ruling) on the property of #HackensackGlassCo. Parking is ample, #BBQ badass and local scene absolutely #smokin.”
So to slightly alter Billy Joel’s lyrics, “Who needs a house out in Hackensack, when you can just drive to 50 Voorhis Lane, Hackensack, Thursdays from 5pm-10pm?” (This Thursday for Rosh Chodesh and the Nine Days, serving will end earlier than normal and will be closed the following week.)
By Elizabeth Kratz