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The Rib Whip Truck Helps Fill a BBQ Void

You’re gonna need a bigger brisket.

This is what's going through my head as I peer out at the crowd swiftly forming in front of The Rib Whip, the latest sensation to hit what seems like the endlessly growing food truck scene. Parked in an empty lot on Ritch Street in SOMA,  the truck serves up Midwest-style barbecue to a city that’s clearly been deprived. By 11:15 am, there’s already 10 people in line, and they look really, really hungry.

Rib Whip owner Ryan Gesselh, a St. Louis native and former Anheuser Busch employee (there’s Bud in the BBQ sauce, of course), has kindly invited me on board the truck so I can observe the goings-on inside the city’s most tweeted-about BBQ spot.

There have been some mishaps this morning: a grease pan has overflowed into the truck, the generator has failed three times, and the potatoes took way too long to cook. But Gessel and Millenium cook Manuel Canto take it in stride, delegating prep duties (I wash the potatoes) and chopping brisket at lightening speed while Gessel’s business partner, Sam Landrum, takes orders.

The most popular menu item? The brisket sandwich ($8), a soft white roll overflowing with meaty slices of Waygu beef that’s cooked in an outdoor smoker for 12-plus hours. Runner up? The pork ribs ($8). They’ve been in the famed on-board smoker since 8 am, and the one-third rack is doused with smoky, tangy BBQ sauce. On the lighter side, there are grilled chicken drumsticks ($5), a pork tenderloin and spinach salad ($8), and the "banana rubdown” ($3)—a banana coated with dry rub spices and grilled. Sides include garlic mashed red-skinned potatoes, grilled asparagus and spicy coleslaw (secret ingredient: ground ginger).

By noon, things inside the truck have reached a fever pitch—pieces of pork and asparagus fly through the air, as do expletives. Gessel and team keep service moving. Fifty pounds of brisket sell in 90 minutes. The wait for orders (excluding line time) is about 10 to 15 minutes, and the atmosphere, thanks to a bumping 2,300 watt speaker system, is more backyard party than corporate lunch break. Which is exactly how Gessel wants it. He started The Rib Whip to fill a culinary void but also to have some fun—a notion that can sometimes be lost in our self-serious city. “Everything always has to have this gourmet twist in San Francisco,” he says. “I just wanted to make some good-ass barbecue.”

The Rib Whip serves lunch starting at 11:30 M-F at 246 Ritch Street. Follow them: @TheRibWhip.

Image by Gary Soup via Flickr