Written by Kayl Wohl. Photographed by Gustavo Del Real.
In 1999, the magic of rare Sonoran Desert rain poured onto the crowd of metalheads at a Metallica show in Phoenix, Arizona. Two concert buddies, still unsure of each other, started the rest of their lives together as if the “Master of Puppets” was pulling their heartstrings with a plan.
Since concert first kisses, Alan and Marisa McLaughlin have traveled across the West coast and Hawaii while sharing workplaces, with food at the center of their relationship. The years spent dreaming of the day they could finally quit their jobs to stop working for someone else finally paid off when they fired up the smoker for their new food truck, Black Market BBQ.
The couple frequented the Whiteaker neighborhood’s Thinking Tree Spirits for date nights. Before too long, Alan noticed a spot opened up and jumped on the opportunity to secure the dream.
At Thinking Tree Spirits, guests are encouraged to experience both businesses with a relaxed outdoor dining area. The kid-friendly space allows room to play while the adults clink glasses of house-made rum and vodkas while enjoying some of the best ribs in town.
Starting at 6 a.m., Alan eases into the day with smoking. He sources meats like chicken, ribs, beef brisket and pork butt from local legacy Long’s Meat Market. With simplicity and a less-is-best mindset, he makes a dry rub with salt and pepper to “bring out the natural flavors and let the meat shine through.” Like any true Texas barbecue, the quality of the dish is uplifted not just by the seasonings in a rub, but more by the quality of the cut. With occasional paprika added to the rub, Alan consistently cooks moist, juicy and savory barbecue. The slow smoking time can often take up to 8 hours to produce the best brisket and pork butt in the Pacific Northwest. What the chef is looking for is the perfect mahogany color on the meats.
The chef’s favorite highlights the Pulled Pork Sandwich as a top-tier craving, and the accompanying cilantro lime coleslaw adds a zesty finish. For the incoming cold weather, the Brisket Chili may be the best way to warm up. If indecisive, guests can try the 4 Meat Plate Sampler or upgrade to the Black Market BBQ Feast with loads of personalized variations to feed the whole family.
“What the stoners love to eat from here is the loaded baked potato with pulled pork,” Alan said. “You can really see it in people’s eyes.”
In every plate they serve, love is evident with only the highest quality, locally-sourced ingredients, including nearly all the fresh produce that’s offered is grown in Marisa’s garden, Marz Attacks Farm. The family dog Teva is proudly enlisted in an adorable bee costume as the garden’s “guard-en bee.”
“It just felt right to grow our own food. It gives us both purpose to connect to the customer that I started this food from seed,” Marisa said. “You can really taste the difference in the Marz Attacks Salad.”
A small section of her garden doubled in size within the first year of operation. Since then, it’s quadrupled in size to cultivate the best seasonal produce with the occasional help and determination of their 5-year-old granddaughter.
Alan’s chilies are grown in his greenhouse and later fermented into his fan-favorite hot sauces. These, as well as his barbecue sauce, are available for purchase for any other home chefs. The pickling game is another mastered realm at Black Market BBQ.
There aren’t many barbecue joints that are cozy to vegetarian or vegan palettes, but Black Market BBQ has the mission to make sure everyone can eat, and modifications are kindly welcomed. The Tofu Burnt Ends, espeically added to the Smoked and Loaded Baked Potato, satisfies all the carby cravings. For a handheld experience, the Sonoran Grilled Vegetable Burrito is packed with seasonal veggies, refried pinto beans, cheese and sour cream. Guests can also modify this item to add any meat of their choice.
With guilt-free compostable packaging, picking up dinner for family or friends is made easy by Black Market BBQ. Skipping the travel journey is a new bonus with delivery available through DoorDash. However, the owners thrive on connecting with their customers– especially those who share foody values, Hawaiian or Southwestern roots, and preferences to support new and rising local businesses. No place else does it the way these two do.
“Our vision is to get involved in our community, meet new friends, and feed the souls of Eugene,” they said. “We want to bring smiles and happy thoughts through our good food.”