When Parks on Tap returns next week for a second season after a hit debut last year, it will feature something guaranteed to draw even bigger crowds to the traveling pop-up: The scent of slow-smoked barbeque.
In a plan hatched by FCM Hospitality’s Avram Hornik and fermentation ace Alex Bois, who is already providing bread for Morgan’s Pier and in whose forthcoming Kensington bakery Hornik is a partner, the 2017 menu for the beer garden will focus around a giant, custom-made, Austin-style smoker.
Operating that smoker throughout the 20-week season will be chef Brandon Thomas.
An alum of Russet, Fork and High Street on Market, 30-year-old Thomas has designed a menu of sandwiches filled with meats like beef brisket, pulled pork from bone-in pork shoulder and smoked chicken salad. Vegetarians can count on a smoked eggplant option, the thick-cut slices topped with ramp-peppadew relish. All sandwiches, of course, will be served on Bois’ fresh-baked bread.
Thomas is not a trained pitmaster, but he’s been studying up on the subject. He’s also retained the consulting services of Justin Koenig, a Philly-area chef who participated in national ‘cue tour Cochon 555 and has just returned from a stint in the Bay Area, where he honed his skills at 4505 Meats and other spots.
“Hopefully you’ll be able to taste the difference,” Thomas said, affirming that he’ll be on location from morning onward each day the pop-up is open, tending the meat as it smokes slowly over low heat. “We’re going for a true, Austin-style approach.”
Texas-style, that is, except no flimsy Wonder Bread. Bois has planned a smoked malt yukon potato bread for the beer garden, which later in the summer will be made using fresh-milled grains.
But, “we don’t want it to be too flashy,” Bois said. “It’s not about the bread at all.”
Thomas jokingly disagreed: “In my opinion, the bread makes the sandwich.”
Price point for sandwiches will hover around $8 to $10. A selection of sides will include burnt end baked beans, cole slaw and veggies dishes that change with the season: pea salad with ginger creme fraiche, radishes with lime vinaigrette, smoked corn elote. New this year is a “picnic kit,” a basket filled with fresh fruit, local cheeses, pickles, good butter and a boule of Bois’ bread to go along.
To compliment the food, draft beer, wine and nonalcoholic beverages will be served. Like last year, the pop-ups will feature hammocks and seating, plus various family-friendly activities. Dogs are welcome, and there will be bathrooms at each site.
Parks on Tap is a partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and FCM Hospitality. It operates each Wednesday to Sunday, May 17 through October 1. Things kick off at the Azalea Garden behind the Art Museum, and continue in subsequent weeks through public parks ranging from Belmont Plateau to Columbus Square in South Philly to Cliveden Park in Germantown.