TFK Smokehouse – Albuquerque, New Mexico

TFK Smokehouse Parked at a Brewery Near You

Every summer, a predictable ritual takes place. After hibernating comfortably since the previous autumn, men attired in aprons emblazoned with the slogan “kiss the cook” will selflessly volunteer to “cook” a meal. This, of course, means barbecue, a decidedly masculine affectation and the only type of cooking most men can be entrusted to do. When this ritual is completed and guests are sated, lavish praise and thanks are heaped upon the “chef.” In truth, the only aspects of this ritual for which men are typically responsible is getting the grill lit, placing the meats on the grill and turning them (after our female better halves warn us that the meats are burning). Normally all the preparatory work—buying the food; preparing the salad, vegetables and desserts; preparing the meat for cooking; organizing plates and cutlery; preparing the plates—is done by our wives and girlfriends. Ditto for the post-dining rituals—clearing the table, doing the dishes and putting everything away. Insouciant clods that men are, we can’t figure out why our ladies are upset when we asked how they enjoyed their “night off.”

While most of us endowed with the XY-chromosome pairing can identify with the scenario described above (which some women might find entirely accurate), Katie Calico and her husband Chris White have a more egalitarian relationship when it comes to the barbecue ritual. The two own and operate the TFK Smokehouse trailer, an endeavor which requires equally exhausting effort from both of them. Watching them prepare then serve meals out of their barbecue mothership nearly wore us out. They perform the same type of prep work the brick-and-mortar restaurants do, but they do so in a much more confined space, a food truck other food truck vendors refer to as “The Cage” for its mix of industrial meets artistic design.

Burqueño Cheesesteak with Coleslaw

TFK, by the way, doesn’t stand for “Truck Food Kitchen” as we had surmised before meeting Katie. It stands for “Talking Fountain Kitchen,” in honor of Katie’s erstwhile venture, Talking Fountain Gallery and Boutique. Before launching the TFK Smokehouse in November, 2013, Katie owned and operated the gallery on Lead Avenue. She explained that “talking fountains” don’t speak on their own; for centuries, fountains have served as meeting places in which citizens of Rome could express themselves—even during Mussolini’s regime. The idea of expressing yourself any way you can resonated deeply with Katie who continues in that spirit even though her primary focus is now culinary arts.

The TFK Smokehouse is reflective of the creativity formerly on display at her gallery. Once a flatbed trailer sporting stainless steel tables, the Smokehouse underwent a significant make-over. Many of the display fixtures and racks from the defunct art gallery were repurposed for the truck along with other artistic treasures. The result is a rather unique food truck that belies any stereotypes you may have about food trucks…at least in terms of appearance. From a functional standpoint, however, the Smokehouse is everything you would expect a great food truck to be. The aromas wafting from this mobile conveyance are akin to smoke signals beckoning you to sample the fruit wood-perfumed fare.

BBQ Beef Brisket Sandwich

When we asked to which style the Smokehouse subscribes from among the four regional pillars of American barbecue (Memphis, Texas, Kansas City, Carolinas), Chris told us they employ the St. Louis style of barbecue. On a per capita basis, St. Louis consumes more barbecue sauce than any city in the nation and boasts of former world barbecue champion Super Smokers among other purveyors of outstanding barbecue. He added that the influence of molasses is readily apparent on their sauce. It’s also apparent that savvy diners keep track of where the Smokehouse will be parked. In the time it took us to finish our lunch, dozens of diners had queued up and ordered food either to go or to consume at one of La Cumbre Brewing Co’s shaded picnic tables.

In that time, the most frequently ordered item appeared to be the Burqueno Cheesesteak (smoked prime rib with grilled onions, green chile and Asadero cheese on a toasted baguette). In this town only the transcendent green chile Philly from Philly’s N’ Fries is even in the same ballpark as this behemoth sandwich. Several elements make this a special sandwich. First and foremost, it really is made with prime rib, not some inferior cut of beef. That prime rib is lightly smokes so as not to detract from the native deliciousness of that cut. Secondly, the green chile actually bites back. You probably won’t be reaching for water (unless you’re from Colorado), but you’ll definitely get a little endorphin rush. Third, the toasted baguette is courtesy of Albuquerque’s premier bakery, Golden Crown Panaderia. No one in this town knows bread as well as Pratt and Chris Morales.

Pint-Size BBQ Bella Sandwich with Potato Salad

On the date of our inaugural visit, the Smokehouse menu featured six sandwiches, each served with a side item (your choice of cole slaw, potato salad or kettle chips).  Roasted green chile can be added to any barbecue sandwich for a dollar more.  It’s a very worthwhile investment especially with the BBQ beef brisket sandwich (smoked beef brisket on a bed of cole slaw with the Smokehouse’s sweet BBQ sauce on a toasted bolillo roll.  This is a very good sandwich with contrasts (the crunchy, tangy cole slaw and the sweet sauce, for example) which work very well together.  The brisket is shredded into tender tendrils of moist, juicy beef.  True to its genesis, the St. Louis style sauce is very much on the sweet side.  Thankfully other elements provide a nice counterbalance.

For lesser appetites, the Smokehouse offers “pint” sized barbecue sandwiches for about half the price of the standard-sized sandwiches.  These pint-sized treasures are available in your favorite meats (brisket, pork, chicken).  A vegetarian-friendly sandwich christened the Bella (balsamic-glazed portabella mushrooms on a bed of coleslaw with the Smokehouse’s sweet sauce on a toasted bolillo roll) is another superb option.  The balsamic glaze imparts vinegary notes that work very well with the sweet sauce.  The portabella mushrooms have a meaty texture and earthy flavor, but it’s just a bit obfuscated by the sauce. 

More than most Albuquerque area food trucks the TFK Smokehouse does a terrific job of posting on its Facebook page where it’ll be on any given weekend.  Alas, the page also includes photos of some of the featured fare.  It’s food porn that’ll have barbecue aficionados salivate with lust.  That lust is justified.  The TFK Smokehouse is one of the city’s very best food trucks.

TFK Smokehouse
(Location Varies)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 369-8668
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 3 June 2017
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: BBQ Bella Sandwich, Burqueño Cheesesteak, BBQ Beef Brisket Sandwich, Coleslaw, Potato Salad

TFK Smokehouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

7 comments

  • BOTVOLR

    Alas, made it again over to La Cumbre brew place on Girard just north of Candelaria where TFK’s facebook page had promised they’d have the Burqueno CheeseSteak this weekend. Indeed, can you say a (meat) sandwich is decadent or is that only reserved for a gooey, hot fudge sundae encircled with whipped cream, topped with a maraschino cherry. While the BCS is as sumptuous as described including the Green Chile having great taste beyond just heat, I must admit I was spoiled last week by the Hawaii 505 BBQ Pork (Sliders on toasted King’s Hawaiian Roll.)
    – A flyer Katie passed me noted you can now also visit them at the Talking Fountain 4207 Lead SE, Thurs and Fris, noon till late, in addition to where they might travel, noted on their Facebook.

  • The Burqueno Cheesesteak is just as you described, amazing. Best thing is, you can tell it’s prime rib, unlike countless other cheese-topped prime rib sandwiches. Super tasty from first bite to last. (Note: This puppy will set you back $14. Most of the others were $10.) Also enjoyed the potato salad, which tasted suspiciously like the one I make — lots of mayo and tang, with plenty of green onions. My son liked his BBQ chicken sandwich, which was beautifully sauced and seasoned. Really liked the La Cumbre brewery setting as well. Waitresses were sweet, even though we weren’t drinking. Good air conditioning for that 102-degree Saturday. Nice afternoon. Bravo.

  • Mea culpa, Leonard. I did enjoy the cole slaw very much on my brisket sandwich, but my Kim commandeered the cole slaw side for herself.

    Nice job on the Food Truck and Brewpub Web site. One of the reasons I haven’t reviewed more food trucks is that many of them are notoriously unreliable. A lot of them either don’t post when and where they’re going to be and don’t keep their Facebook and Web sites up-to-date.

  • BOTVOLR

    OMG….Best Sandwich, tied for Calif Pastrami’s Reuben, I’ve had all year!
    – Bad thing about reading Gil’s reviews, is that ya get yer mouth watering for something, in this case the Burqueno CheeseSteak on a Golden Crown Panaderia bun and ya drive half-way cross town and the place is out of them and ya have to settle for some kind of Hawaiian BBQed concoction……that’ll, IMHO, knock you socks or thongs… aka go-aheads…off. Barely had time to check out the Dollies that were on the patio as I tried to concentrate on what made up the flavors of sweet, tang, and heat to no avail. I’m not the one to scrape the bottom of the “plate” per sandwich spillage, but not the case here. Let me go technical and put it in the Sesquipedalian Sybarite language of…it was Scrumpdillyiciously yummy. Comes with a fine tart cole slaw, albeit I’m into my Mom’s sweeter version.
    Indeed as pictured, a family business.
    RE Cumbres brewery…It’s in that off Candelaria setting known as ‘industrial’. The building’s exterior however, reminded me of a dentist office I once went to. As noted before, I’m not much into being a “let’s all go down to the bar and throw back a couple of brewskies kind of guy and don’t know my IPA from a Hopsenstrudel…happy with a PBR! Alas, the setting here is a welcoming, kinda manly man’s bar with sufficient side areas were I’d be happy to bring one of those getting to know you kind of first time, college dates…nicely casual with attentive waitstaff who will even bring you a bowl of water for your animal on the patio, nicely shaded in the afternoon!
    Cheers/Salud!

    • According to the TFK Facebook page, the sandwich which enthralled you is TFK’s sweet and spicy Hawaii 505 BBQ Pork Sliders (TFK smoked pork in sweet sauce, with grilled pineapple, green chile, and cole slaw on toasted King’s Hawaiian Rolls). They do sound terrific!.

      • BOTVOLR

        Well Thank you for clarifying that Gil, albeit now that the specificity of a menu item being “3 Hawaii 505 BBQ Pork Sliders” is out there, they run the risk of there being a run on them!
        In actuality, I wrestled with whether I’d be able to do 3 Sliders per my avian-like appetite. Given the constricted space of the food truque, I can only presume that somehow Chris “ESP -ied” my quandary, given he so graciously offered to do, for lack of a better term, a smaller, bunned version! OMG…it is unimaginable what that concoction would be like on King’s Hawaiian Rolls! Maybe next time I’ll do the 3 Hawaii 505 BBQ Pork Sliders and take one home for later where I could slip in a slice of….ya Hawaiian SPAM without incurring any wrath! (Imagine! every man/woman/child on the Island eats 7-8 cans of SPAM a year! Wonder what that would convert to here in terms of Chile eaten?

  • You failed to mention the best and freshest cole slaw anywhere!

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