Chef Jon Wipfli noticed something interesting about the homes in Austin, Texas, during an early morning jog. Almost every home he passed had a smoker in the backyard.
He was on a research trip to Texas, part of a two-year sojourn to great barbecue cities of America to learn the technique behind a variety of smoked meats. From brisket in Austin, to pit-smoked whole hogs in North Carolina, Wipfli ate his way through an education in barbecue, which he now shares with Twin Cities eaters.
Thursday marks the official opening of Animales Barbeque Co., where Wipfli has been experimenting in smoked meats from a 33-foot trailer behind Able Seedhouse + Brewery (1121 Quincy St. NE, 612-405-4642) for a few weeks now.
“Living in Minnesota, one thing you don’t see until you go down South is that there’s such a huge culture around this food,” said Wipfli, who trained in New York City and was the opening sous chef of Bachelor Farmer. “People get up early on the weekends to do it, like how we treat ice fishing or something like that.”
The spoils of his travels include: racks of pork ribs and brisket by the pound; tacos; Texas-style hot link sausages made at Lowry Hill Meats; rotating sides, including Texas Twinkies (jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese and brisket, wrapped in bacon); and a few over-the-top specials, such as a brisket chili dog topped with Hot Cheetos, and something called a “meat tornado” — a sandwich stuffed with beef rib, pork belly, chopped pork, cheese sauce and house pickles.
Packed full, the smoker — which runs morning to night — can imbue 750 pounds of meat with its delicate flavor. “There’s a barbecue smell in the neighborhood,” Wipfli said.
Wipfli hopes to host some big events going forward, including a monthly oyster roast on his custom fire pit, nicknamed “Pearl.” He’s an avid outdoorsman and the author of “Venison: Slay to Gourmet,” and would like to teach whole-animal butcher classes at Able in the future.
The launch party with live music kicks off Thursday at 4 p.m. Animales Barbeque Co. will be open at Able on Thursdays and Fridays from 4 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m.