Smile Politely

Get a taste of Mama Duke’s Food Truck

An overhead photo of food from Mama Duke's food truck: a chicken sandwich with macaroni, rib tips and two sides, and nachos. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

The slogan for Mama Duke’s Food Truck is: “Get you a taste!” and I got a taste. Opened in May of this year, the Black-owned business began as a catering company in 2018 and serves a menu of barbecue, nachos, sandwiches, sausages, and specials. The red-and-white barbecue truck parks at Triptych Brewing, Riggs Beer Company, VFW Post 630, events at Rose Bowl, in Rantoul at Forum, and more locations around the area.

Mama Duke's red and white trailer is parked at Riggs in Urbana. The trailer has a barbecue smoker on the back "patio" of the trailer. The sky is blue with fluffy white clouds. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Seeing the truck in person, I loved that the back porch was outfitted with a barbecue smoker. We have a lot of food trucks in Champaign-Urbana, but not one (that I know of) with a smoker in the back. Nicknamed the Meat Wagon on the truck’s socials, this truck is instantly recognizable.

On the outside of a white food truck with red details, there are three pieces of paper with handwritten menu. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

The night I tried Mama Duke’s at Riggs, the truck posted paper menus just before opening for business. I ordered the nachos, a sandwich, rib tips, and three of the truck’s sides.

A pulled chicken sandwich with a side of macaroni from Mama Duke's Food Truck in Champaign-Urbana. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Served in a white paper basket, the pulled chicken sandwich ($6.66) was wrapped in tin foil and came with a choice of side; I chose macaroni. The sandwich had an overflowing portion of saucy pulled chicken. The meat was stringy and super tender, and the sauce had a nice, sweet barbecue flavor. Because there was so much meat — and said meat was so saucy — that soft bun became soggy fast. It still tasted good, but by the end, I ate the pulled chicken with a fork, sans bun.

The side of macaroni was simple but well executed. Classic elbow noodles? Heck yeah. I loved the creamy, cheesy sauce, and the texture of the noodles was spot on: neither too soft nor undercooked. This macaroni side was total comfort food, and mac-loving people (adults and kids alike) will want to get a taste.

A basket of nachos from a food truck. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley.

The truck serves plain nachos, too, but I ordered the pulled pork nachos ($6.66). These nachos were served stadium-style with bright orange cheese atop circular corn chips in a plastic container. The barbecue pork was tender, sweet, and lightly sauced, and there was more of it than I expected. Mama Duke’s pulled pork nachos were exactly that: pulled pork on nacho chips with nacho cheese, and that’s it. While it lacked toppings or accoutrements, the combination of warm cheese sauce on circle chips with some pulled pork tasted pretty dang summery with some cold beers.

The rib tips from Mama Duke's Food truck are in a brown paper basket, unsauced with a great looking char. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

When I saw the smoker on the back of the trailer, I knew I wanted to order the rib tips ($13.32). The char on the tips was beautiful, and the aroma was appetizing. The meat had a tasty, smoky barbecue flavor, and the peppery dry-rub was great. Though the tips had a lot of cartilage for the amount of meat, I didn’t mind because the tips tasted yummy. This rib tips meal came with a lot: all those tips plus two sides and a slice of bread.

In the basket of rib tips, there are two sides: coleslaw and baked beans. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

As far as the sides, the coleslaw was good: sweet, cold, and creamy, but I must go off about how delicious these baked beans were. You know how some places don’t put anything in baked beans besides beans and the sauce? And how some barbecue places add bacon? Well, this barbecue truck had baked beans with ground beef in it. At first, I was skeptical, but after one bite, I was obsessed. The crumbly beef imparted such a great meaty flavor to the beans. Mama Duke’s beans had a perfect texture and a balanced sweet flavor — and I absolutely loved them.

Two beers from Riggs Beer Company sit on a weathered brown table at Riggs' beer garden in Urbana. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

To round out the meal, we had draft pours in the beer garden at Riggs in Urbana. My husband had the American lager, and I had the brewery’s Citraweizen, a summer seasonal. Both were light and refreshing on a sticky July night, and the beers paired nicely with our food truck dinner.

The back view of Mama Duke's food truck which has a metal smoker on the back. The trailer is parked at Riggs on a sunny July day in Urbana, Illinois. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Overall, Mama Duke’s Food Truck is a great addition to the C-U food truck scene. The truck slings out barbecue in easy-to-carry packaging, clearly thinking about the experience of diners who have to walk across a parking lot or drive the food home. Besides what I ordered that night, the truck also offered Heinkel’s sausage and Jamaican jerk sausage, though I have also seen specials of fries, wings, an Italian beef sandwich, and more advertised on their Facebook page.

If you’d like to get a taste of Mama Duke’s Food Truck, catch the barbecue meat wagon at Riggs in two weeks on August 6th.

Mama Duke’s food truck
Riggs Beer Company
1901 S High Cross Rd
Sa August 6th 1 to 7 p.m.

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