You can feel sorry for doctors or not, but until a month ago the South Waterfront had almost no affordable lunch fare. The new Gantry—a roadside walkway lined with food carts—has since bogarted Ash Woodfired Pizza, Neue Southern, and now the Hot Box BBQ.
The Hot Box focuses on pulled pork and has some of the best cart-cooked pig shoulder in town. A Little Bit of Smoke still offers up the best Carolina sauce, but the Hot Box brings a grab bag of spices, apparently a Humboldt County tradition. In true NorCal stoner style, every flavor is up for grabs. On and off, they cook up Maui Wowie pulled pork with pineapple, pickled onion and peach barbecue sauce, and a Viet-Nom, Nom, Nom that's essentially a pulled-pork banh mi on brioche.
The pork is shoulder that's been smoked low and slow, and it maintains its meaty character rather than turning stringy. And while the Original sandwich's ($8) peach barbecue sauce is benignly sweet with a bit of tang, and pleasantly crisped up with traditional slaw, it's the Volcano ($9) I'd come back for. The stacked sandwich is a logjam of jalapeño pepper jelly and Sriracha aioli, with fried onion providing the crunch instead of cabbage—pretty much an unholy mash-up of pulled pork and Rochester-style bomber. It is a thing of beauty.
The $2 add-on sides are serviceable. I'd take basic coleslaw over potato salad, although the latter gets extra credit for throwing apples into the mix. But in a neighborhood previously so sadly hard up it didn't even have a bar until nine months ago, the Hot Box is something to envy in the South Waterfront.
Order this: The Volcano ($9) with coleslaw side ($2).
EAT: The Hot Box BBQ, 3121 SW Moody Ave., at the Gantry pod, thehotboxbbq.com. 11 am-7 pm Monday-Friday, or until sold out.