717 E. Warrington Ave., Allentown
When I arrived at Allentown's USA B.B.Q. on a recent Wednesday morning, I knew exactly what I wanted: my favorite, a pulled-pork sandwich. Assuring me from the small window of his red, white and blue trailer that I'd made a smart choice, owner Mike Bodnar quickly grabbed a sample cup, stuffed it with pork and topped it off with a squeeze of barbecue sauce.
"Try this," he told me excitedly, before turning around to prepare my sandwich. "It flies off the shelf."
No wonder. Smoked for 24 hours, Bodnar's pork is tender and juicy, and his sauce -- your choice of regular or spicy -- effectively complements the meat without disguising the pork's true flavor. Oh, and the sandwich is huge. Served with a side of potato salad and a pickle, my sandwich was overflowing with pulled pork and spicy barbecue sauce.
"This is the biggest pulled-pork sandwich in Pittsburgh!" the 63-year-old Army veteran boasts. "It's a half pound of meat on each sandwich -- at least!"
Open Wednesday through Saturday, USA B.B.Q. is easy to miss. Located in a fenced-in lot on East Warrington Avenue, it consists of just two small trailers and a smoker. Bodnar, a former race-car driver and bartender, bought the empty lot three years ago after retiring from the restaurant business. Ever since, he's been trying to get locals hooked on his barbecue.
"If I get somebody to come here once," Bodnar says, "they come back."
The menu is short: In addition to the best-selling pulled-pork sandwich ($5.50), USA B.B.Q offers barbecue ribs ($6.50), hot dogs topped with pulled pork and barbecue sauce ($5.50), grilled chicken on a stick ($5) and turkey legs ($5).
Bodnar says he smokes his ribs for four hours, using hickory wood. He also seasons them with a garlic-and-black-pepper powder, as well as apple juice, which he applies with a plastic squirt bottle.
The day I stopped by, Bodnar was busy. In just a half hour, he had already sold about 10 pulled-pork sandwiches. When he got a chance to leave the trailer after serving a couple of construction workers, Bodnar remembered that the turkey was done: "I almost forgot!" he said, opening up the smoker and pulling out a tray of turkey legs. "Aren't they cool?"
"I sold four already, and I wasn't even open yet!" Bodnar exclaimed. "Where can you get a half-pound turkey leg, a side and a pickle for $5?"