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A City Ordinance Might Force Two of Minnesota’s Best Barbecue Trucks Out to the Suburbs

Minneapolis ordered Animales Barbeque Co. and Boomin Barbecue to shut down their biggest smokers by October 1. If nothing changes, they may relocate next season.

A man wearing a black T-shirt and black baseball cap leans into large black offset smoker with a red stripe on the front.
Animales Barbecue’s 1000-gallon offset smokers account for 70 percent of their output.
Animales Barbecue

Animales Barbeque Co. and Boomin Barbecue announced Saturday that an order by the city of Minneapolis could potentially drive both businesses — two of the Twin Cities’ best barbecue operations — out to the suburbs, or elsewhere.

Both Animales and Boomin Barbecue run offset smokers — massive, barrel-like smokers with thousand-gallon capacities — outside their trucks. They smoke most of their meats in them: about 70 percent, according to an Instagram post by Animales. But a Minneapolis ordinance states that food trucks can’t have any equipment outside the vehicle itself: no seating or tables, extra signage, or, in this case, smokers. As such, the city has ordered both businesses to stop operating their offset smokers by October 1. It’s unclear why the issue is being raised now, as both Animales and Boomin Barbecue have been in operation for several years. (Eater has reached out to the city for comment.) Dylan Boerboom, owner of Boomin Barbecue, suspects someone in the industry may have reported them.

In fact, the issue is two-fold, says Boerboom. The offset smokers also lack NSF certification — a label by the National Science Foundation that shows that food equipment is sanitary and electrically safe. This is another violation of the city’s food truck permit rules. But Boerboom says there are essentially no traditional, large-scale barbecue pits with that certification on the market. “This exact issue is happening across the country as far as the NSF thing, but many, many local health departments are working with their restaurants because they love the product,” says Boerboom. “It’s Americana, it’s one of the traditional foods we have in America.”

Boomin Barbecue does have a pit inside the truck, but it only has a 200-gallon capacity. Compared to the offset smokers, Boerboom says, it’s like a backyard barbecue pit. The smaller pit can’t achieve anywhere near the nuanced, smoky flavors the offset smokers produce — not to mention it simply can’t smoke the amount of meat necessary to sustain his business. “That’s why I say they’re effectively shutting us down,” he says.

The Twin Cities’ barbecue scene has flourished in recent years, thanks in no small part to food trucks like Animales and Boomin Barbecue. This summer, both businesses were highlighted in a Texas Monthly feature on Minnesota barbecue — a Midwestern dark horse making a mark on the national scene. (Ironically, says Boerboom, the Minnesota health department actually cited the Texas Monthly article when they gave the order to stop operations. The article mentions the offset smokers.) But both business owners say the city’s move to enforce the ordinance, which dramatically reduces their output capacity and may ultimately drive barbecue trucks away from the city, is a step in the wrong direction. “Not only is it an archaic ordinance, it’s stifling for a small bbq business and puts a hard stop on making better bbq here in Minneapolis,” wrote Jon Wipfli, owner of Animales Barbecue, in the Instagram post.

So far, Boerboom says, city officials have been responsive and helpful. He and Wipfli have spoken with Mayor Jacob Frey and their respective city council members — Boerboom says Ward 3 council member Michael Rainville assured him in a phone call that despite the “tortoise of a bureaucratic system,” elected officials are doing everything they can. Ideally, Boerboom hopes to continue operating the offset smokers through the end of the season in late November, and then have the winter season to convince the city to change the ordinance. But if that fails, he may relocate when spring rolls around.

“We’ve been approached by a number of locations that would welcome us with open arms,” says Boerboom. Surrounding suburbs with no such ordinance in effect are an option — as is Wisconsin. “We might have to go to Hudson, you never know. We bleed purple at Boomin Barbecue, but if local legislation isn’t common sense, it’s just not feasible.”

Update, October 3: Animales Barbecue and Boomin Barbecue announced on Instagram that the city of Minneapolis will allow them to run their offset smokers through November. After the season wraps up, they’ll work with the city to change the ordinances — a public hearing to do so will likely happen this winter.