It is a Friday night at Lonerider Brewery, and the sky is still blue. A band sings Ed Sheeran and Nancy Sinatra for packed picnic tables. I found a seat at one, toward the back, with a cold IPA.
I am two bites into my fried trout sandwich when an eleven-month-old child takes one of my tater tots. It fills his palm, as if an adult were holding a whole potato. He starts to eat and his dad starts to apologizebut I can’t stop from laughing, hard, until the buckles on my overalls ring like jingle bells. The child takes this as his cue to take another, and another, and another.
We all want to be this baby.
In many ways, he is everything you need to know about Brinehaus Meat and Provisions, the new food truck from Steve and Sam Goff. The dishes are so good, you want everyone around you to try them. And once they do, they can’t get enough.
Brinehaus has officially been in the works for a year and a half. But really, it’s been more like eight. That is when Steve and Sam met in the culinary program at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, where they started their respective careers, and their relationship.
“We just never separated,” Sam says. “We’ve worked together ever since.”
They moved to the Triangle in 2015, when Steve took the opportunity to become head butcher at Standard Foods, the restaurant meets grocery meet butcher shop in the Person Street Plaza in Raleigh. The plan, from the start, Steve says, was to help Standard Foods open, then build something of his own.
“I can’t think of a position in a restaurant that I haven’t worked,” he says, “or a kind of restaurant that I haven’t worked in.”
Before Standard Foods, he served as executive chef at King James Public House in Asheville, the culmination of a decade of work in kitchens all around a city that showcases one of the most vibrant food scenes in the state. While Sam hails from there originally, Steve ended up in North Carolina after “a long time as a street kid,” hopping trains across the country.
Now he’s on the move again, never staying in one place too long.
Only, the train has become a truck, and almost everything else has changed. He has a close family and a clear destinationthe dream of a restaurant that he and his wife will call their own.
For many couples, work-life balance hinges on separation. The office from the home. One partner’s profession from the other’s. But, for the Goffs, life is all about collaboration. Theyand their truckdepend on partnership, like fuel, with him as executive chef and her as manager.
“This is not a job for Steve,” Sam says. “This is his passion. And I am passionate about him. I want to see him grow and evolve and create and thrive. And I want to be part of it.”
I can’t help but wonder if this is part of why the food is so good. “Love” as an ingredient sounds cheesybut, also like cheese, tastes amazing. Caring about what you’re cooking, how you’re cooking, who you’re cooking with, and who you’re cooking for matters. And Steve and Sam care a lot.
Ask them about sustainability and they’ll tell you about natural gas (their generator runs on it instead of gasoline) and solar panels (installed on the truck to supplement electricity) and food waste (no way).
“We use everything,” Sam says. “If we’re using a carrot, we use the whole carrot. If we’re using an animal, we use the whole animal. That’s huge for us.”
So is community service. In Asheville, they contributed to an organization called Downtown Welcome Table, which collaborates with chefs to cook for the city’s homeless. Now that they have Brinehaus, they hope to similarly support the surrounding communitythe whole community.
Locate Brinehaus anywhere on social media and you’ll find Steve and Sam waiting with Carolina red hot dogs, smothered in local beef chili, chopped onions, and a crunchy, tangy, vegetables-of-the-day slaw. Two per order. Because who ever eats one hot dog?
Try a fried fish sandwich with a Nashville twang. Steve dunks the fishhe just snagged some speckled sea trout from Locals Seafoodin a spicy, green peanut oil from Oliver Farm in Georgia, then layers that on a squishy bun with lettuce, tomato, and pickles.
And chicken wings, smoked until they taste the way you feel after a night around a campfire, fried until crispy, and tossed in a Buffalo-style sweet potato sauce.
The recipe was actually an accident, after a spill left Steve with not enough Buffalo and a surplus of Alabama white, the tangy horseradish sauce. The combination, he says, reminded him of his early kitchen days, when his favorite staff meal was buffalo wings with ranch for dipping.
“I’ve worked in fine dining restaurants and I decided, I want to feed everybody. I don’t want to just feed rich people,” Steve says. “I’d rather put a lot of thought into utilizing every single thing we have, making more approachable food.”
In other words, he and Sam are putting their formal training and years of experience toward comfort food out of a truck. And it is that contrast between craft sourcing and cozy service, between obsessed-over recipes and old-school dishes, that makes Brinehaus so exciting.
“We don’t want to make it taste like Jean Pierre made it,” Steve says. “We want to make it taste like Grandma made that shit. Wonderbread. Duke’s. Those things that touch people’s souls.”
This article appeared in print with the headline “Elevated Comfort Food.”