Earlier this year when we heard plans were in the works for the very first Pork Roll Festival in Trenton, we made sure we marked this event on our calendar as a “must attend.” We asked ourselves, “Could we really call ourselves an important outlet for all things New Jersey and not attend?” The answer was very clear. Obviously we were not alone in our excitement. The lines were quite long even though we arrived fairly early. It shouldn’t be a surprise that New Jersey is serious about our pork roll.
The event, held at the Trenton Social Club on South Broad Street, drew a large crowd to celebrate, share their appreciation of tasty meat, hear live music and, of course, eat.
We couldn’t possibly try everything so we picked very carefully among the Social Club’s offerings and the three vendors. The Social Club had the longest line but it also had our favorite dish of the day. The Porkrollnita. This amazing beast had pulled pork and pork roll in two grilled tortillas with pico de gallo and pickled onions. We nearly came to blows over who got to eat the little bits left over in the paper once we’d each eaten one. We hereby officially declare that this dish should become the New Jersey State Food.
Inside the Social Club, they also offered pork roll sushi but we couldn’t get close enough to even see it so we’ll have to wait til next year to try that. They had briefly run out of eggs while we were in line so we next went with their pork roll and cheese sandwich on the Italian Peoples Bakery roll. Italian Peoples rolls were everywhere at the festival. The pork roll chef knew just how much char to put on those slices of meat. Wow!
They also had my favorite burger of all time, the Trenton burger. Beef and cheese topped with pork roll. So much better than a bacon burger!
Our next favorite vendor was the tater tot truck because (1) tots and (2) beer cheese and (3) pork roll chunks. Yes, I said it. Beer cheese and pork roll chunks. Velveeta calls itself liquid gold??? Oh no… BEER CHEESE is liquid gold, my friends.
We tried two dishes. First, the New Bay Tots which were tots bathed in Old Bay and served with beer cheese, bacon and pork roll chunks. Just the right amount of Old Bay and tons of meat on there. Simply perfect.
The Pork Roll and Drunk Cheese Tots were just what it sounds like. We got extra cheese on this one since we already knew how delicious it was. This might be our runner-up nomination for New Jersey State Food.
The main thing that we’re sad we missed out on was the Hawaiian Pork Roll sandwich from this vendor. We’ve heard from friends who also attended that it was crazy good. I mean, come on, pork roll with pineapple and chipotle mayo? No brainer… good. And, macaroni and cheese with pork roll in it??? Damn my limitation of only one stomach!
We couldn’t even get close to this truck but we heard lots of yummy noises coming from people who had. OK, we should have taken some more items to go!!
As with any first year operation there were a few lessons to be learned. We had heard tickets were limited to 500. That restriction was almost certainly lifted and perhaps a different venue should have been selected. Vendors had run out of eggs and even pork roll for a while. A few of the scheduled vendors had to pull out so the lines at the few that did attend were seriously long.
But, everyone was having a good time and most got at least something to eat so let’s look forward to a bigger and better festival next year!
The winners of the pork roll recipe contest are probably already thinking of a new and better Pork Roll Surprise. Along with the recipe contest, there was also a Miss Pork Roll contest which we were too early to see. There was a beer garden on hand as well. There were lots of bands performing throughout the day, too.
This doggie didn’t care how long she had to wait in line for her little snacks.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the New Jersey battle ground of the names pork roll versus Taylor ham. It is an old argument and one which needs to really go away. If this festival taught us anything it is that both sides can get along. Everyone who attended got along spectacularly no matter what side of the salty meat fence they stood on. And that is the way it should be. No one cares if you call a facial tissue a Kleenex or a copying machine a Xerox. So, let’s all just agree that whether it’s pork roll or Taylor ham, it’s delicious and we should all be eating more!
Here are all our pictures from the best idea for a festival we’ve ever heard of:
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