On a recent escapade exploring all the best out of town establishments in Manchester’s surrounding areas, we came across The Old School BBQ Bus tucked away in Failsworth.
No really, when I say tucked away, I mean like that lucky five-pound-note is tucked away into the back pocket of those jeans you never wear at the bottom of your wardrobe in your childhood bedroom. The Old School BBQ bus is in the arse end of nowhere.
But if you trust the beckoning promise of barbequed ribs, your nose will bring you across The Old School BBQ Bus – an actual bright yellow American school bus decked out as a kitchen which serves out some of the finest food for miles. And, yeah, I really mean that.
We’ve been down a couple of times, and have spent a considerable amount of time with Mark Fairly the owner and brains behind the operation and my god, what a lovely chap he is. His passion for the place exudes from every one of his pores– and if that isn’t enough to convince you, let me tell you he gets up at 3 am EVERY BLOODY DAY to fire up the 5ft smoker he keeps outside.
The Old School BBQ Bus began its life as… well, a school bus. But it was later bought by Mark a couple of years back on an absolute whim. Following his dream, Mark quit the day job and began driving the bright yellow bus and serving ribs, burgers, wings and brisket galore from its window.
Fast forward a year or so, and the whole concept has expanded into a ranch. The bus is now parked at one end of a huge, homemade marquee. Opposite this, is a purpose-built stage for their arsenal of country and western performers (some of which are quite famous we are told) which play nightly Thursday-Sunday.
You will find tables, hale bales to sit on, Texan flags, a makeshift wooden bar and even the star-centred saloon doors your wild-western childhood dreams were made of. Mark has really thought of everything, and what’s more impressive is he built it all himself.
At first glance, it is a lot to take in, you’ve got to admit that, but as Mark took us around, I started to get it. This weird, wonderful and eclectically whacky place is nothing other than authentic. Mismatched but completely functional for eating some food, drinking some drinks and toe-tapping along to the rootin’-tootin’ musical stylings of Lars Pluto, Pat Reedy and The Blue Genes Family Band.
As for the food I don’t know where to even begin. If you wanted to get a real feeling for the BBQ bus vibe – nothing does this better than the pit-master special- a whopping pile of smoked St. Louis pork ribs, chicken wings, pulled pork, sausage, grilled corn, onion rings (as big as your face), beans, smoked beef brisket and slaw. Designed to be shared, this monster will have you fighting to the death for the last morsel.
If that isn’t enough for you, the BBQ Bus is famous for their grilled cheese sandwiches, nachos, hot hot hot wings, and epic burgers which are so big even Adam Richmond himself would have you politely decline. But how big are we talking I hear you ask? Try a 32oz steak burger, a butterflied chicken breast, 8 smoked streaky bacon rashers, pulled pork, cheese, salad and a smothering of northwest sauce on for size!
It doesn’t stop with the food either. The Old School BBQ bus is home to a rather impressive bar. Nothing goes better with barbeque than a few frosty pints of beer, and their choices have been carefully curated to fit the theme down to a T. Think Goose Island and Bud Light on tap as well as a fine selection of cans and craft ales from the US of A.
All the cocktails are completely bespoke and heavily feature the BBQ Bus’s star alcoholic ingredient- Moonshine. Yes, actual moonshine. Granted it isn’t made in some country hick’s bathtub in some remote part of Nebraska as I would have liked, but the novelty is still there along with the flavour.
Pimento Moonshine is made from wheat and is basically a young, unaged whiskey. The strong stuff is up to 60% proof, but the flavoured ones are much lower and in turn, much more palatable. Apple pie, cherry and peach are a couple of favourites among guests – and it doesn’t matter if they are sloshed in a cocktail or shotted at the bar – this moonshine is just what you need to stay warm on a cool winters night.
I’m going to have to stop myself because I could go on about this place until the end of time.
Honestly, there is nowhere like it in Manchester. The BBQ food is outrageously good, the drinks delicious, the entertainment completely unique and the general vibe relaxed and full of whimsical amusement. The Old School BBQ Bus is the very definition of a hidden gem and the very reason we love coming across one.
The Old School BBQ Bus, Alford St, Chadderton, Oldham OL9 7LP
0161 682 5006