One of the best parts of Birmingham becoming more of a recognizable foodie town in the past few years is the addition of food trucks. What started as just a few options has exploded into vibrant scene of creative, hard working chefs dedicated to serving up tasty bites to accompany local drafts at any of our breweries, providing lunch or snacks perfect to enjoy at park or festival, or filling your bellies during a weekday lunch break downtown or across the city. One of newer additions, Hot Tag, is run by the “tag team” of David Woods and Fiona Marshall, and this week they’re serving up local bites at Ghost Train to celebrate WRW2017.
The Hot Tag food truck has a pro wrestling theme, think 80s Million Dollar Man and the like, and that theme is expressed through more than just the signed photos adorning the truck. The pair are obviously having fun preparing their take on pub and comfort food, and their teamwork assures the food comes out fast and fresh. They say that because of their lifelong love of professional wrestling, they know that “even if it’s hard to learn the ropes, they will never tap out.” It’s a joy to peek through the ordering window of the Hot Tag food truck and watch them work, and the food they pass through that window honors that spirit and dedication.
For WRW2017 you have a couple options for the $10 lunch, but they’re also offering dinner if you want to stop in to Ghost Train after work. I took my brother with me this time, so I got to sample both the seasonal soup side with pulled pork-belly Bahn Mi and the smash burger with fries. The third option, which you can order any combination of sides and entrees, was a yummy and fresh sounding seasonal salad with Spring Mix, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Sliced Sweet Kumquats, Cucumber, and Lager-Orange Vinaigrette and Vegetarian Chimichurri Jackfruit “Carnitas” Nachos with Grilled Jackfruit, Green Pepper, Sweet Onion, Crumbled Queso Fresco, and Golden Ale Lime Crema and Brown Ale Chipotle Sauce. All Hot Tag’s offerings for the week include local ingredients from the Urban Food Project and Ghost Train Brewery.
My Seasonal Soup included Roasted Pumpkin and Roasted Sweet Potato with a Golden Ale Lime Crema. That soup, y’all! It was perfect for the slight chill in the air after the morning’s rain, lightly sweet from the veggies but with a surprising heat that really took the soup over the top. The crema came in a lovely swirl on top and blended in beautifully with the other flavors. I had every intention of ordering the Jackfruit Nachos before I arrived yesterday, but when I saw the description of the Sweet Heat Southern Bahn Mi – Dark Ride braised shredded pork belly, Serrano mayo, sweet daikon slaw – I had to switch gears. I’m always a sucker for pork belly, but I’d never had it prepared this way before. Braising and shredding pork belly turns this amazing cut of meat into the most tender barbecue-esque texture, lovely. Add in the crunch of slaw, the punch of heat from the mayonnaise, and sandwich it all between fresh bread, and you’ve got yourself one mouth-watering sandwich.
My brother graciously agreed to order the burger and fries, because, you know, tough choices. The fries are described as double-fried, and they are indeed expertly crisp. Tender on the inside, crunchy outside, and hand-cut not too thin/not too thick. He’s lucky I didn’t sneak more. The burger is my favorite kind, a smash burger cooked on the griddle. There’s some scientific explanation about how the fat refracting back into the burger from the griddle’s smooth surface helps get those craggy, crispy edges to the meat, but either way, the end result is awesome, never dry, always tasty. Hot Tag’s Mr. Olympia Burger comes with sliced tomato, red onion, butter crunch lettuce, pickles, cheddar, and IPL mustard. Get you one.
As a bonus to the afternoon, my brother and I attended the first of two Beer Saturday events at Ghost Train before we ate. The event included an excellent class on beer making and tour of Ghost Train’s setup. The brewery isn’t that large, but what they’re able to accomplish with the space is pretty impressive. We learned about their combi system for making and boiling mash, including a sealed system for adding fresh grain. And we learned about the special cooling system that helps the fermenting tanks stay at exactly the right temperature for each style of beer, including Ghost Train’s unique lager, the first craft lager in town. After the class, where we also got to sample some of the grain and hops, we all sat down for a tasting of each of the brewery’s signature brews plus a small batch special.
The craft lager is served with a lime wedge and deliciously refreshing. The Go-Devil Golden Ale is hoppier but still balanced and smooth. The Switchman’s Stash IPL (or India Pale Lager) might be my favorite – it’s a unique style as well, difficult to describe adequately, but it accompanied my spicy soup and sandwich really well. The Terminal Station Brown is an excellent example of the Nut Brown style and has slight coffee notes. The Dark Ride Belgian Style Strong Ale is another favorite, slightly sweet from local wildflower honey. And the small batch offering of the day was a Coffee Hazelnut version of the Brown, my brother’s favorite for sure. Each Wednesday Ghost Train serves up different small batch offerings, so there’s always something exciting going on. This Beer Saturday event sold out, so get your tickets to the 1/28 event fast.
A proud Birmingham, Alabama native, Emily Brown has long been in on the secret that Birmingham is an incredible food town. When she’s not writing about food, restaurants, and purveyors for Birmingham Restaurant Week, she’s out enjoying new culinary adventures, whether in one of the city’s restaurants or from her own kitchen. Raised equally on a diet of storytelling and great, Southern food, Emily is also the author of Birmingham Food: A Magic City Menu, a book about the history of food and restaurants in Birmingham from The History Press.