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Summer sizzles when you're rockin' the barbecue

Smokey Robinson BBQ hits all the right notes

It has been a rock ‘n’ roll summer for Smokey Robinson BBQ.

The food truck and catering business, featuring scratch-made barbecue, keeps rocking the patio at Full Beard Brewing Co. It was also a most welcome food source for music fans at Rock on the River in Timmins this summer.

Owner Bryan Robinson plans to keep the hits coming.

“I do all my own rubs and sauces. Everything is straight from my kitchen,” he explained. “I take a lot of inspiration from people I’ve met.

“Michael Callaghan (pit boss for Team Canada BBQ) came to (a past) Rock on the River for VIP barbecue, and I worked with him.

“Then I kind of got the itch to do it myself.”

The Iroquois Falls native got into the food game for fun at regional barbecue competitions.

“I think it was an idea by me and my buddy,” Robinson said. “He saw there was a barbecue competition in Cochrane, Smoke on the River — there was one in Kap, one in Timmins and one in Cochrane.

“I think the year we did it we placed relatively well in Cochrane, but we had no idea what we were doing. We just kind of threw stuff in the box, we didn’t even think about the way it looked. The food was good but we didn’t end up doing that well.

“Then we came to Timmins and ended up winning the competition because our food was good and we decided to make it look cute too.

“We did that for three or four years, so I decided why not make it a business.”

He has been catering for the last seven or eight years. This is his first year with the food truck.

“I needed a kitchen,” he said. “Instead of renting or finding a kitchen to do events, I was busy enough to buy a food truck. I do all my prepping, all my cooking inside there. Then I just go to the event.”

He has catered some big events in Timmins.

“A lot of the barbecuing stuff went with a pig roast for the Kinette Club,” he said. “ I did Empty Bowls for a few years, a fundraiser for the food bank.”

There is no denying, however, that the popularity of his barbecue has caught fire locally like a Billboard hit.

“A lot of it’s smoked meats,” Robinson said. “A lot of the popular items are the brisket and the pulled pork. We got the poutines and do tacos with it and sandwiches.

“You can get just meat on the side if you really want. We try to keep the menu simple and do weekly specials and daily specials.”

Like a smokin’ hot rock ballad, it takes time to create an epic barbecue.

“I try to smoke twice a week, once at the beginning to get the truck started,” he said. “Then because I usually have weddings and different events on the weekend, I try to smoke meat again on Friday.

“It’s 16 hours every time I fire up the smoker and I probably do about 250 lbs of meat at once. By the end of the week, we have to start all over. It makes for a long day, but if you love what you’re doing, it doesn’t seem that long.”

It takes time to create a menu of favourites.

“Ribs take five hours and then another half hour to set the sauce and make it look good,” he said. “Brisket and pulled pork usually take between 14-16 hours, depending on the size and temperature. We don’t get dry meat here.”

The menu features a wide range of meaty goodness.

“We do hamburgers and tacos,” Robinson said. “Pulled pork is the most popular taco.

“We do a cajun-style chicken, that’s blackened right on the grill. We have a grill and not a flat iron so you get that smokey flavour. You still get that real fire.”

There is a burger that has become a No. 1 hit with a bullet.

“We have a really popular sandwich, the bacon cheese brisket,” he said. “It’s a bacon cheeseburger, then we load it with smoked brisket and a couple of onion rings. Then we added a maple bourbon barbecue sauce and then a little bit of sour cream sauce with hot peppers.

“That’s a delight, and it’s messy.”

There are also other items that strike a chord with customers.

“People love nachos and cheese no matter where you go,” Robinson said. “We have mac and cheese, maybe it reminds you of being a kid. We use the beers from Full Beard as much as we can in our sauces and our barbecue sauces. The cheese sauce is a beer sauce.”

In addition to feeding patrons of Full Beard, Robinson believes in supporting other local businesses.

“We source meat locally from Dabrowski’s,” he said. “I try to support the locally owned places. For example, I would rather go to the locally owned grocery store rather than a big box store. I like to support local.”

Smokey Robinson BBQ has hit all the right notes so far this summer.

“When the patio is rocking, we’re busy,” he said. “The guys at Full Beard have been awesome and helpful. We’re enjoying it. We have two employees full time from Timmins. We try to add different things every week.

“Rock on the River was awesome. We were busy. I’d like to say there was a lineup the whole time, but we probably had 15 minutes without. It was wild.

“We went through close to 500 pounds of meat total. We served between 2,000 and 2,500 people — whether that was just a simple bottle of water and a hamburger or nachos and cheese and a pulled pork sandwich.

“And the rock was incredible. The organizers of Rock on the River did an amazing job. I’ve been to a lot of different concerts in different places and this was one of the good ones.”

When it comes to barbecue, everyone has their favourite. So, what is the resident pit master’s go-to when he is hungry after a long day?

“I’m a fried chicken kind of guy,” Robinson said. “The fried chicken here is good. It’s my own recipe. It’s a buffalo-marinated chicken thigh. We bread it in-house and everything is fresh. That’s probably my go-to. If I’m eating before I go home, I get the guys to make that for me.

“Then if I’m really hungry, I get them to make me a fried chicken poutine. It’s French fries, cheese sauce, chopped fried chicken with buffalo sauce and a little bit of sour cream sauce.

“That’s a pretty good combo right there.”

It’s music to a barbecue lover’s ears.

Smokey Robinson BBQ food truck is parked at Full Beard Brewing Co., 219 Wilson Ave. in Timmins, phone 705-232-8771. Check them out on Facebookt  here.