Her name is Odesza.
Charles Wong’s bright red, 22-foot, 500-gallon mobile road pit comes from Texas, and so does the barbecue she smokes—at least in terms of method and material.
But the flavors and textures of his brisket banh mi and smoked crab rangoon come from other lands. “I’ve always wanted to marry the Asian flavors I grew up with with smoke,” says Wong, who’s been smoking and selling barbecue since 2015 under the name Umamicue. “Every cuisine has some kind of barbecue.”
Wong and Odesza have pop-ups and catering events booked every weekend until September, but this Monday, June 27, they have a very particular engagement in Irving Park when they play Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s weekly chef pop-up at the Kedzie Inn.
Odesza herself may or may not make an appearance—I’m petitioning for the sweet narcotic haze of smoked meat to haunt the streets and alleys of Irving Park. But those brisket banh mi will be there, and so will the crab rangoon, bulging with white and post oak-smoked molten cream cheese. Wong’s also frying up brisket-stuffed egg rolls, which will also make their way into a Texas-style bowl of buncha, the same symphonically textured and flavored, herbal-cool-hot noodle dish Bourdain and Obama shared in Hanoi—this time given extra-dimensional mojo with smoked lemongrass pork patties. For you plant-fed organisms, smoked Impossible patties and egg rolls, and fish-free nuoc cham are available.
“To me barbecue is about bringing people together,” says Wong. “It’s a universal language. We don’t have to speak the same verbal language—you can just look, see, smell, and be able to tell: ‘Hey, that’s delicious.’” That’s why Wong has enlisted Jennifer Pham of @cocktailswithnuky (and also Celebrate Argyle and Haibayô) to create the night’s cocktail, a Ginger Soda Chanh, with your choice of poison—gin or vodka—and calamansi, muddled ginger and sugar, and mint.
You can procure that from Jon Pokorny at the bar, starting at 5:30 PM. And you can order your Umamicue from Wong right here, right now, via Tock.
There will be some limited availability for walk-ins too, and while I can’t guarantee Odesza will be available for selfies, she will be certainly be smoking for your pleasure in her secret Lincolnwood lair. If she doesn’t make it this time, look for her when Umamicue returns to the Kedzie in September with a cast of collaborators that, if you’re any kind of Foodball fan, you will know and love.
Meantime, check out the full Monday Night Foodball summer schedule, restarting after an Independence Day break:
7/25: Asian stoner snacks from SuperHai
8/22: Vargo Brother Ferments
8/29: the triumphant return of Funeral Potatoes
9/5: Labor Day break
9/19: Global Asian barbecue with Umamicue and friends