New barbecue restaurant opens in a familiar brewery. Been to FOB Brewing?
Forward Operating Base Brewing Co. was DuPont’s first brewery.
Now it’s DuPont’s first barbecue stop.
FOB owner and Army veteran Jared Wharton has added a kitchen and a smoker to his 50-seat brewery that’s tucked into an industrial park in DuPont. Fittingly, his brewery is a hop and skip from JBLM. The brewery name is a nod to the name – Forward Operating Base – given to military installations that typically support tactical operations.
In 2017, Wharton opened his 5-barrel brewery without a kitchen, intending instead to feature a rotating crew of visiting local food trucks.
Then, the barbecue bug bit. He thought barbecue would be a consistent product that would work well with his beer and also tie his military theme to different styles of barbecue served near bases in the southern United States. And then he thought, what if he eventually expanded to serve styles of barbecue found where U.S. service members have been stationed: Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea and Vietnam?
He explained, “When I was in Iraq and Afghanistan and eating the local food, it was always such a magical blend of something totally new to me, but there was always an element of it that reminded me of barbecue I grew up eating. And I always, thought, ‘We should celebrate this more.’”
While barbecue from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan are planned for FOB’s future, right now he’s starting with Central Texas style brisket, Memphis-style ribs and Carolina pulled pork.
After a round of fundraising and a lot of recipe tinkering, he debuted his barbecue to the public last week. He’ll do a slow rollout of the menu with a few limited barbecue items every Saturday. He’ll eventually expand to serving barbecue on Fridays and Sundays.
ADDING BARBECUE TO FOB
Tucked into the front corner of the brewery is a tiny kitchen that Wharton crams into alongside FOB Chef Aaron Kumamoto. It’s barely the size of a closet, but they’re able to churn out delicious barbecue sandwiches, brisket platters and possibly the floofiest banana pudding you ever will enjoy.
Out back, if you see smoke billowing from a locked shelter in the parking lot, don’t panic. That’s the pit. It’s equipped with a smoker from Johnson Custom BBQ Smokers in Waxahachie, Texas. He’s burning mesquite on that smoker.
“It’s a little bit of something of everything, the greatest hits of barbecue,” explained Wharton last month when I first asked him what he’s smoking.
His brisket is simply prepared, Central Texas style, and mesquite smoked. I asked him if he’ll stick with basic salt-and-pepper, the preferred seasoning at Central Texas smokehouses. Absolutely, said Wharton, but he added, “I can’t leave anything alone.”
He infused a little dash of Northwest into the recipe. What’s the most Northwest seasoning you can think of? A sprinkle of Johnny’s, of course.
The ribs are Memphis style with a dry rub that skews more savory and earthy. As served in Memphis, the ribs arrive unsauced. (In fact, all the meat is unsauced, the way all barbecue should be served).
His pulled pork is Carolina style with a nice thump of smoke and a vinegar-based mop on the meat. Dress it up with Carolina-style mustard sauce at the sauce station (more on the sauces in a minute).
Knowing he’s from California, I had one question.
Will he feature the barbecue of his childhood from his native California?
As an occasional special, yes.
“On the Central Coast of California where I grew up, tri tip is our barbecue. My everyday barbecue isn’t Santa Maria style, but my plan eventually is to have Sunday tri-tip day,” he said.
But one Central California ingredient does show up on his menu right now – pinquito beans. He uses those California beans in a traditional Santa Maria style baked beans, which are savory, meaty and well seasoned.
“Every region has their own bean,” he said. “In Texas, it’s a pinto bean. If you go deep south, you get blackeyed peas. On the Central Coast of California, we have a pinquito bean. I like them because they keep their shape.”
He added, “They’re cooked in a rich broth of onions, garlic, bay leaves and some ham and spices. They have a smoky-porky flavor and they’re not sweet at all. I based the recipe off of where I grew up.”
ABOUT THOSE SIDES AND SAUCES
In addition to those Santa Maria style baked beans, he’s also got a snappy slaw that’s minimally dressed, sweet-and-tangy pickles and a potato salad that’s reminiscent of a backyard grandma-style potato salad. He’s also got plans for collard or mustard greens (whichever he can find in season). And then there’s the banana pudding.
“It’s a really rich but light and delicious end to a very rich meal,” he said. I’ll say. I bit into a cup of it and loved that there was an even ratio of sliced bananas to Nilla wafers. The pudding was satiny smooth with a light poofy texture.
Sidle over to the sauce station and find four squeeze bottles of sauces.
There’s the PNW Sauce, a thin, tangy sauce with zippy heat. There’s a mustard sauce, called The Stain, that’s piquant. The Cherry Bomb was rich and tangy, with a distinct deep finish. The Redneck Chimichurri was not only delicious, but it cracked me up. The secret ingredient that makes it redneck style? Mountain Dew. It works.
VEGAN BARBECUE? YOU BET!
“I’m a guy who’s opening a barbecue restaurant and I have a wife and two daughters who don’t eat meat,” said Wharton with a laugh. He has later plans to add vegan-friendly items. “We’re going to have some cool things. We’re going to have cauliflower burnt ends and some smoked beets. Eventually we’ll have some salads and seasonal stuff on the menu that is something for everybody. My goal is for everybody to eat here and not have a vegan come hang out with their meat eating friends, order just a side of something. We’ll have something for everyone.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO WORLD BARBECUE
Also on the menu eventually will be those global-inspired barbecue dishes. “We’ll do a Korean bo ssam pork roast and we’re doing our riff on a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, but kind of a bit more hefty than a banh mi, but with those flavors. There’s also Iraqi-style lamb and we’ll honor some people from other parts of the world. There’s an Italian style wine-braised beef that gets sliced and put into our Italian style beef sandwiches that we named after a Medal of Honor winner. Just cool stuff like that. We gotta be FOB and represent our people.”
ON A FIRST VISIT: TRY THESE
Don’t miss the brisket, if it’s available, which is supple, has fatty-jiggly edges and a peppery ring of bark. That brisket arrived with a waft of mesquite and a texture that’s on just-the-right side of falling apart. In true Central Texas style, it’s served without sauce and perched atop a fat slice of white bread. Try it with a squirt of Redneck Chimichurri. I liked my brisket paired with FOB’s TIPA the Spear Triple IPA. (Brisket plates are $14 and come with slaw and beans).
I paired the smoky pulled pork, which was bathed in pork juice and restrained on the smoky finish, with FOB’S Boru Imperial Stout. It went swell with the snappy sweet-and-tangy pickles and the slaw. Slap that pulled pork with a hit of the Stain, which is a Carolina-style mustard sauce. (Pulled pork sandwiches are $10 and come with slaw, pickles and onions).
Finally, if ribs are on the menu, grab them and make sure you get a side of the savory baked beans to go with. I found I liked dipping those ribs in a swipe of the vinegary PNW Sauce followed by a dip in the Cherry Bomb.
If you don’t get banana pudding for dessert, you’re doing it wrong.
FOB BREWING CO.
Where: 2750 Williamson Place #100, DuPont
Serving: Barbecue on Saturdays for now, but eventually expanding to Fridays through Sundays.
Open: Thursdays through Sundays for now, but check social or web for hours
MORE BARBECUE COMING TO TACOMA
Did you catch my story two weeks ago about BK’S Barbecue? It’s opening in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood and it comes from a chef that longtime restaurant watchers will know. Read all the details here.