This post was originally published in May 2016.
There are a couple of things that you should know about LA's Raiders fans: They will never, ever, ever cheer for the Rams, and some of them know how to make outstandingly good barbecue.
Such is the story of David Marin—a.k.a. "East LA Raider Dave" of East LA BBQ Co.—a man who is innovating a style of barbecue unlike any other. His flavors and techniques are drawn from his Mexican heritage and his obsession with American barbecue. Just ask the hundreds of Raiders fans who flocked to LA's Elysian Park this past Saturday to get a taste of his maple-smoked pork ribs in chipotle barbecue sauce and his legendary smoked lengua tacos.
"I just did it my own way and everybody loved it, man," Marin nonchalantly tells me about the inspiration for his up-and-coming catering company. He slices a whole rack of pork ribs and proceeds to squish them together to show off the sheer juiciness of them. It is memorable, to say the least. "With all of the alcohol being consumed during Raiders games, you have to eat before, during, and after a game, and barbecue is perfect for all of those occasions."
Marin and his barbecue battalion—made up of his wife and a few close family friends—have been called to cater a Mother's Day and Cinco de Mayo Raiders-themed club meetup at the park. There are at least ten Southern California-based Raiders clubs present at the event, including but not limited to: Absolut Raiders, Southland Pirates, La Familia Raider Nation, the Wrecking Crew, So. Cal Nomads, and many more. There are infants, tricked-out SUVs, lap dogs, flags, mugs, and even a bounce house cloaked in silver and black Raider garb. Everyone is united by their unyielding loyalty to the Raiders, oldies, and good barbecue.
"Football [and] barbecue go hand in hand, bro. I was born a Raiders fan," Marin says. This is the resounding sentiment felt by everyone present. He uses Raiders meetups to practice his barbecue skills, which were exclusively acquired through his extreme DIY philosophy. He shares that some of his earliest barbecue memories are of him smoking meat to pregame with his old punk rock band, Madrasos, before playing backyard gigs. "This all just started by pregaming, but I realized that I would always be cooking, so it just dawned on me: I might as well sell it." This simple mindset led him to buy every barbecue book that he was able to get his hands on and recreate the recipes and techniques in his backyard in one of his six smokers.
As the overcast day at Elysian Park goes on, the thick, grey smoke redolent of maple wood and pork wafting from Marin's Weber smoker is so tantalizing that it draws the attention of former Raiders defensive end Greg Townsend, who is signing autographs and taking photos at the event. He comes over and takes a bite of Marin's pulled pork sandwich, which is an adaptation of a North Carolina-style that uses lots of vinegar. "This the real deal," he shouts out. He likes the sandwich so much that he puts on an East LA BBQ Co. T-shirt and jokes, "When I barbecue at home, I'm going to wear this shirt and hope that it came out as good as your stuff."
Marin hopes to open up a food truck in the future. As of today, he still has a full time-time job as a shipment coordinator for a prom dress company. But he knows that if business keeps going the way that it has been going, he may have to quit soon.
As Rene & Ray's "Queen of My Heart" plays in the background, and the juice of the Marin's chipotle-sauced ribs runs down the chins of all of the Raiders fans chomping away under the LA skies, I have a feeling that that's going to happen sooner rather than later.