FORT KENT, Maine — John and Mary Freeman sure know how to draw a crowd.
All they have to do is simply show up with the Rib Truck, and the hungry masses are not far behind. For the last 20 years, the Westmanland couple have traveled from one end of Aroostook County to the other selling barbecue ribs, chicken, pulled pork, baked beans and their newest creation, “the pork parfait.”
Sort of rib-nomads, the couple goes from town to town in a modified van complete with open-pit barbecue cooker, warming oven and vats of their secret barbecue sauce on tap. They adhere to no real schedule and rely on social media posts and word of mouth to alert their fans when they will be in town.
That and the aroma.
“I could smell this all the way over on my porch,” one customer said as he stood in line Friday in Fort Kent. “I came right over to get some.”
Friday was John and Mary Freeman’s opening day for the post-winter season in Fort Kent, and it did not take long for barbecue aficionados to start lining up.
“My wife told me to make sure and stop to make sure we have Rib Truck when I get home,” John Nadeau of Fort Kent said as he waited to place his order. “I don’t want to know what would happen if I came home empty-handed.”
As John Freeman kept a close watch on the barbecuing ribs, turning racks and moving them from grill to warming area, a constant stream of traffic slowed and stopped next to his van at the Sears parking lot.
“Think of this as aroma therapy,” he joked as smoke from the fire wafted over waiting customers.
“I do love the ribs,” Nadeau said. “But it’s the parfait that my wife always gets.”
A concoction for the true barbecue lover, Freeman’s pork parfait is layers of bacon-baked beans and tender pulled pork smothered in the Rib Truck’s signature sauce.
“Parfait is a French word for perfect, and the pork parfait is the perfect combination of pork and beans,” he said. “It’s extremely popular, and we sell hundreds of them every week.”
For those who want to attempt their own Rib Truck creations at home, the Freemans have bottled their sauce for sale.
The couple routinely sells out of everything by early afternoon, and faithful customers know to show up early for the best selection. They’re are often in Presque Isle twice per week, at Thursdays on Sweden Street in Caribou and up in the St. John Valley once per week.
Ardent supporters of Aroostook County community events, the couple has bundled up and braved sub-zero temperatures to set up at the Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Races and worked in the heat over their fire pit at summer fairs and festivals around the area.
And people just keep coming back for more.
“We have a good product, and certainly the response from our customers has been exceptional,” Freeman said. “Our flavors are really tough to beat.”