During February, Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide is featuring restaurants that are Black-owned or that have Black chefs in observance of Black History Month.
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The food truck known as Grandma’s BBQ was started by an actual grandma, Marcia Owens Ballard. Ballard was employed by the Orange County Public School System and also worked in daycare.
According to the website, Ballard would also prepare food for the families she worked for, and after getting so many requests to cater events, she decided to buy a food truck and go into business. (This is not terribly different from how 4Rivers Smokehouse came to be.)
That was 14 years ago and Ballard is no longer with us. But her grandson, Deodrick Ballard, continues to run the business and keeps the truck moving around to spread Grandma’s joy.
I recently found the truck parked at the Oasis at Lake Bennet, an apartment complex in Ocoee. It wasn’t in a highly visible spot – not something you’d see if you were driving by on Colonial Drive – so I assume most of the customers were from the apartment complex or from fans who track the truck on social media.
I was the only customer at the time I pulled up and Ballard waited patiently as I looked over the picture menu on the sandwich board under the ordering window.
I ordered the rib combo with collards and macaroni and cheese as my two side choices, pretty much the way it was pictured on the menu. I also got the pulled pork combo, with baked beans and fries.
The ribs, served on top of white bread slices, were slathered in a not-too-spicy sauce and had a charred crust over the juicy meat. The collards did have a bit of heat in the flavor, pleasantly so.
The pulled pork was served on a burger bun but I preferred to eat the meat by the forkful. It had the same sauce as the ribs and the meat itself had a smoky aroma. The baked beans were a bit on the sweet side.
Ballard, working along, was busier by the time my order was ready, but he took the time to caution me to carry my bag with care so as not to spill the beans, so to speak.
As I was walking back to my car, I noted the picture of Grandma Ballard on the side to the truck. I think she’d be pleased with how her grandson it keeping the business going.