Three Forks Voice - Connect With Your Community!

By Jack H. Smith
Three Forks Voice 

Food truck opens in Three Forks

Blue Smoke Barbecue

 

Blue Smoke Barbecue owner Justin Koller checks his smoker last week. Voice photo by Jack H. Smith

To Blue Smoke Barbecue owner Justin Koller there is something special about small town America.

Shortly after opening his food truck at the Venture West Realty/Remuda Coffee location at 202 MT HWY 2 E in Three Forks, he said city workers brought down a picnic bench for customers to use.

"I love stuff like that. That's what is great about small towns," he said.

The journey to the current location in Three Forks that is open Wednesday to Friday started six years ago.

A trained chef, Koller said he has worked all over the place including stops in Jackson and Whitefish before moving to the Gallatin Valley in 2013. While working for a caterer and private chef in Bozeman, Koller decided it was time to do his own thing.

Koller had a friend Kevin Loustaunau in Bozeman, a Texas native who grew up and had a deep appreciation for barbecue. While Koller wanted nothing to do with a traditional brick and mortar location, the two instead discussed the possibility of starting a food truck.

Loustaunau would spend time training his craft at House Park Bar-B-Que, the oldest barbecue restaurant in Austin, and would soon return with his newfound knowledge of cooking with 100 percent wood, as well as a smoker.

Koller said the two would spend the next three or four months perfecting their craft and started looking for a truck. After eventually finding a truck in Colstrip that had only been used once, it was time for the duo to start Blue Smoke Barbecue, a name that comes from what Koller said is the ideal tint of smoke coming out of the smoker.

Opening in December of 2014 at the Bozeman Brewing Company, Koller admits it was a struggle to start, but once spring hit things started to change and there was a lot more foot traffic.

The food truck started to get not only customers from the Gallatin Valley, but also regulars from places as far away as Big Timber and Whitehall.

"People started coming out of the woodwork," Koller said.

Within the first year, Loustaunau would find out the food business was not for him and was bought out by Koller.

Koller found once his customers tried the barbecue, something he said is pretty rare, it changed the way they felt about it.

He said often times their reaction was "wow", noting they really didn't know any better because they had never tried it before.

Koller and his fiancé recently purchased a home in Three Forks and after several years in Bozeman decided to make "a go of it" in town.

Property owners Stacy and Jody Bellamy allowed him to park the truck at their location and Blue Smoke Barbecue opened in May in Three Forks.

Koller is not only fond of his location that was once an A&W restaurant, he also lauded the support of the Three Forks community. He said it has been fun to see some of the same customers and getting to know what they do for a living, so he can return the favor and support them.

"People are really supportive here. You feel really appreciated," he said.

The menu at Blue Smoke Barbecue features cooking techniques of Central Texas barbecue including beef brisket and also includes pulled pork, St. Louis style ribs, and beer brined chicken. Koller also features jerk chicken available in tacos or on a sandwich.

He will also incorporate specials on the menu including last Thursday with Blue Smoke cob salad with smoked chicken, crispy pork, local smoked egg, beefsteak tomato, cheese, spiced sunflower seeds over crispy romaine lettuce with smoked tomato ranch dressing.

Koller also places tremendous pride in using all locally sourced ingredients including meat from Montana farms and ranches.

"It's important to source locally as much as possible. You can taste the difference," he said.

The brisket is a popular item at the Blue Smoke Barbecue food truck. Courtesy photo

The food truck also does a great deal of business through catering where customers can custom build their menu, with Koller adding it is great to see people come to the business after attending a wedding or event.

The business is currently open Wednesday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday from Noon to 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Koller said this is certainly not fast food and once it's gone because of cook times that can often range from 8 to 14 hours, he cannot make any more for the service.

Those who may be driving by the location, will often see Koller outside tending to the fire, making sure he has the ideal blue smoke.

For more information about the business, visit http://www.bluesmokebarbecue.com, email [email protected], find them on Facebook @bluesmokebarbecue or call 406-200-1873.

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