Usually when your job requires you spend the night in…
Anna Mae’s: Southern Street Food was founded at the start of the year after Tony and Anna gave up their office jobs to serve up damn fine down-home Southern classics on the streets of London. They’ve just returned from a 2,500-mile pilgrimage to the origins of their favourite flavours, driving and eating their way from Los Angeles to Austin via the World BBQ Championships and talk takoshers and TexMex…
It’s not only delicious and under represented in London but there’s also such a vibrant culture that comes with it which teams up well with the theatre of street food. We want to show Brits there’s more to American tucker than burgers, fries and hotdogs.
Why did start your trip in LA?
Because, along with New York, it’s the home of the modern street food movement: when hundreds of hungry people gather at night around a collection of food trucks and tents to eat and party. Also, the ethos behind Anna Mae’s and contemporary street food in general is about injecting food culture with some energy and a sense of humour, which happens in spades in LA. Where else in the world could you get a kosher Mexican taco named ‘Takosher – the Chosen Taco’ (pictured, top left)?
World BBQ Championships in Houston, eh. Fun?
When we smelt the gorgeous smoke and meat emanating from the 70,000 capacity Reliant Stadium in Houston after a long drive from LA through New Mexico and Arizona, we figured the trip had been worth it. Ahem. Little did we know as we salivated that only the official judges get to actually eat the ‘Q’! It was painful – all that amazing food and not being able to touch a morsel. Luckily Lockheart, Texas nearby is the home of barbecue in the States so we got to stuff our faces there instead! The town consists of a cluster of huge wooden barns called Markets, devoted to smoking chunks of meat which have been in operation since the 1890s when Germans settled in the area – their smoke-stained walls and barbecue pits are an amazing sight.
Totally – it’s a land of extremes. There’s rural Texas which lives up to every John Wayne stereotype: men with guns and cowboy hats, riding long-horn cattle down the streets of one horse towns and chowing from the barbecue shacks that line the road. Juxtaposed with that there’s Austin…
Austin is the perfect combination of having year-round sun and being the live music capital of America plus it has a contagiously laid-back studenty vibe – it’s home to the University of Texas and also where Wholefoods was founded. So, for us, Austin was definitely the highlight of our trip. And it lives up to the local mantra of ‘Keep Austin Weird’ too. While we were there, we stumbled across Chicken Shit Bingo (pictured, right) at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Dive as well as the World Beard Championships. It’s also home to Franklins Barbecue – serving the best BBQ’d brisket we’ve ever tasted.
OK, you’ve sold us on the barbecue stuff. What other Southern foods did you sample?
Texas red chili was a big find. It’s sweeter, smoker, redder (and more addictive) than the kind of chili con carne we’re used to back home. Hush puppies which are fried savoury doughnuts are lush too. They’re named after the bits of corn that people used to throw yapping dogs to keep them quiet. We also got to understand why staples like mac and cheese and coleslaw, which are often slightly mundane over here have become Southern classics. For example, done right, true Southern ‘slaw is fresh, tangy, crunchy and creamy, while a goey macaroni cheese with different toppings is delicious and totally addictive!
Anything that didn’t find its way to your heart through your stomach?
A chimichanga – it’s a TexMex deep-fried burrito… enough said. Now pass the Gaviscon.
You can catch Anna Mae’s serving up their own special pulled pork and more at the next Kensal Flea on Saturday 25 June in North-West London, plus they’ll be popping up all over London this summer serving pimped-up mac and cheese and Texas red chili too! Befriend them on Facebook to follow the scent from their cooking…