In Portland, good Texas barbecue comes from food carts. That’s true of two of the city’s strongest contenders right now, Matt’s BBQ on N Mississippi and Bark City on SE Madison. Even longtime Killingsworth institution Podnah’s Pit started as a mobile trailer. So it will not be a shock that hot-prospect newcomer, Holy Trinity, works out of a royal blue cart at SE Powell Boulevard and 35th Place, in the parking lot of the now-shuttered Original Taco House.
In a fenced-off smoker near the cart, self-taught pit master and Texan Kyle Rensmeyer cooks brisket over Oregon white oak for 14 hours every Friday and Saturday. The result: thick, pink-ringed slabs with black peppery bark and deep veins of fat. It’s some of the best brisket I’ve had in Portland—so tender you can pull it apart with a fork.
Rensmeyer spent most of his adult life sampling barbecue in his home state, inspired, at first, by Dallas’s Pecan Lodge, and later eating his way to Austin’s famed Franklin Barbecue. When Franklin Barbecue’s Aaron Franklin visits Portland for his annual Feast food festival pilgrimage, Rensmeyer gleans what he can from the gregarious “wealth of knowledge.” “There’s a lot of great Texas barbecue niche styles,” explains Rensmeyer, “but everybody starts by the baseline of Aaron Franklin. He’s where we all strive to be.”
“The Trinity,” $22, approaches the Franklin baseline: the aforementioned brisket; spicy, snappy, Czech-style sausage made with brisket grind and studded with mustard seeds; and sticky, fatty pork ribs. The best of three sauces is a jack-of-all-trades, Worcestershire-heavy Kansas City–style option. Sides are better than most you’ll find at barbecue joints around town, with cheesy, course-grained grits, pulled-pork-strewn pinto beans, and very Texan nana pudding (served cold, under a blot of whipped cream).
For now, Holy Trinity is weekends-only, 11 a.m. until sold out (be there at 10:45 sharp), although Rensmeyer hopes to add lunchtime hours on Friday. And later this summer, he says, Holy Trinity will be the anchor for a new food cart pod, with Multnomah Village craft beer emporium John’s Marketplace doling out pints from inside the old Original Taco House space. It might just be the food cart pod of 2019.