Even though Boise is nowhere near America’s barbecue belt — which runs from the Hill Country of Texas through the Midwest and all the way to the Carolinas — there are a few skilled pitmasters around these parts who have been around the barbecue block.
Here’s a look at two barbecue joints that put out smoky meats with all the fixings during the daytime hours.
395 W. State St., Eagle
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday
Andrew Petrehn recently resurrected his popular Rib Shack barbecue joint in the former Mickey Ray’s BBQ spot near downtown Eagle.
Petrehn used to dish up his Kansas City-rooted barbecue on the other end of town, and for a short time in Meridian. In recent years, he’s been busy catering with his 35-foot barbecue trailer.
But he had the itch to get back into the restaurant game.
The rustic-designed eatery is open only for lunch during the week, though hours will probably be expanded once the weather warms up and the patio opens.
Petrehn, an accomplished pitmaster from Kansas City, deals in details and in big flavors, all the way from the impeccably smoked meats (prepared with Missouri hickory in a wood-fired smoker) to his twist on the dozen or so house-made regional barbecue sauces kept in squirt bottles.
Service is brisk and friendly. Diners simply order at the counter and the food comes out lickety split.
One day, Petrehn handed out samples of rib ends to those waiting in line. So I surely had to order a pound ($16.16/special) of these sticky-good, mixed rib parts — big knots of tender spare rib pieces and a few meaty baby-back bones — served on a sheet of butcher paper. No barbecue sauce was needed, but I found a squirt of the tangy Memphis sauce to do the trick.
Rib Shack sandwiches require assembly, meaning diners get their chosen meat with a side of soft, floppy white bread that’s custom-made by Pastry Perfection to Petrehn’s exacting standards. You can add two side dishes for $5 to accompany the sandwiches and meats sold by the pound.
The thigh and breast meat on the Rib Shack’s shredded chicken sandwich ($9.75) was surprisingly tender considering that chicken at other barbecue joints tends to be dry. I tagged on a side of spicy baked beans (studded with smoky meat ends) and some buttery smashed potatoes smothered with melted cheddar and bits of crunchy bacon. A zigzag of the mild Kansas City-style barbecue sauce (a little sweet, a little spicy) took care of business.
You should definitely try the pulled pork ($9.75/sandwich), a pile of chunky pork butt — straight from the smoker — barely held together by toothsome pieces of dry-rubbed bark. I quickly ripped the soft bread in half and loaded it up with the tender pork and a big heap of sweet coleslaw, finished with a zesty vinegar-based North Carolina-influenced barbecue sauce. I also enjoyed a side of creamy red potato salad made with crunchy celery, hard-boiled egg and just the right amount of spice.
Diners also can score brisket, tri-tip and Burnt Ends, a Kansas City-style hodgepodge of seasoned bark from the various smoked meats.
Big K BBQ
3409 Chinden Blvd.,
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday
Big K BBQ owner Steve Kubinski has dished up his style of barbecue around town for several years. He used to have a barbecue joint in the now-demolished Rodeway Inn across from the Idaho Statesman on Curtis Road.
Kubinski, originally from Chicago, set up shop in Garden City about a year ago in a storefront that he’s been using for catering, and he recently opened a daytime take-out business there as well. He plans to expand into the vacant space next door in the coming months, providing a dining room and pub area for his growing customer base. For now, it’s a grab-and-go deli concept where the barbecue takes center stage.
In addition to grilled kielbasa and wraps, diners file in during the lunch rush for affordable baby-back ribs, pulled pork and tender tri-tip beef, which Kubinski slow cooks in a custom smoker with a blend of hickory and apple woods.
The Santa Maria ($8), the eatery’s signature sandwich, lets the thinly sliced tri-tip beef speak for itself, pink in the center and piled high on a toasted hoagie roll hit with garlic butter. Simple by design, this half-pound sandwich didn’t need any sauce, but I lightly dressed it anyway with a thick and tangy Kansas City-style variety kept in a squirt bottle near the front counter.
You won’t find a dozen barbecue sauces here, but Kubinski, who believes good barbecue doesn’t need a lot of sauce, makes a few different kinds to keep everyone happy.
A large squirt of mustardy Carolina-inspired sauce tasted great on the pulled pork sliders ($6), three puffy, little buns filled with tender shreds of smoky pork. I plopped a little creamy slaw ($1.50/personal side) on each one and ate them before they got too goopy.
For those not wanting to commit to an entire rack of ribs, Big K BBQ offers smaller portions such as a six-bone option ($10). But after biting into these meaty baby-back pork ribs (tender and showing pink under a spicy bark) you’ll probably want more.
Besides slaw, other sides include rather pedestrian macaroni and cheese (elbow noodles coated in processed cheese), damn good baked beans, Smotatoes (think a smashed baked spud with the works) and a standard red potato salad flecked with celery seeds.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Patrick Kelly: scene@idahostatesman .com.