BELLINGHAM – as four plump hot dogs simmered over a hickory wood grill, Larry Joe burst into a rendition of Gilbert “Gil” Scott-Heron’s blues classic “Blue Collar.”
From the inside of his new food trailer, the 61-year-old’s raspy voice belted the lyrics as his fingers tapped the notes on the jangling keyboard. Midway through the tune, Joe stopped – sweat visible on his brow – and moved with catlike quickness over to the grill to turn the dogs.
“About 2 minutes,” he said. “Perfect timing.”
Larry Joe’s New England Fire Pit – a food truck selling what he calls “timeless” hot dogs, smoked over hickory and marinated in apple juice and molasses – opened back up on July 7 after an electrical fire tore through his first trailer while it sat outside his home in Hopedale.
“I’m in this business to stay,” Joe said, adding that after the fire he vowed to make a big come back.
And he has, returning to the same location – a portion of the parking lot of Larry’s Package Store (no relation) in Bellingham that has, for over three years, been like his own pavement oasis.
Tuesdays through Saturdays, Joe arrives at 11 a.m. in his truck towing the fire pit. The setup takes a bit of time: heating the grill, unloading the spicy, sweet condiments, placing the plastic chairs and tables and hanging the flags.
In Biblical terms, it’s Goliath, and the others are Davids.
For the weary, Joe has a suggestion for tackling the mammoth dog without making a terrible mess.
“You take the hot dog,” he explained, “and you slide it about 3 inches out of the paper (bag). then you fold the excess paper and eat it like a burrito.”
He also has added seven condiments to go with the dogs. but the grill master doesn’t have ketchup. Instead, he splices a little barbeque sauce and a little fresh tomato, creating his own little concoction that most prefer.
Joe designed the new trailer himself, calling upon his engineering experience. During the Vietnam War, he worked on submarines and in laboratories as a nuclear operations engineer for the U.S. Navy.
After the war, he worked at an engineering firm for 28 years before retiring. but he doesn’t refer to himself as retired. Not in the least.
“That assumes you’re going to stop everything you’re doing and go learn how to fish,” he said. “I already know how to fish.”
Soon, Joe might have to pick up and move to a new parking lot. Larry’s Package Store has new owners, and they have not said if they will let Joe stay.