East Idaho Eats: Blackhawk BBQ, serving freedom baptized in sauce
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BLACKFOOT — Former Army Blackhawk pilot Nic Transtrum says he has a little patriot inside him that has to be fed. And that inner patriot loves nothing more than service, freedom and barbecue.
In the spring of 2018, the east Idaho native launched Blackhawk BBQ Pit as a food truck, with plans to attend major east Idaho events throughout the summer. In the two years since, Blackhawk endured rollover crash, which destroyed the truck and business.
But Blackhawk didn’t stay down, rather it rose from the ashes like a phoenix — or perhaps more fitting, a bark-covered brisket.
Today, the company has three dedicated food trucks, the newest meant strictly for catering events. They also just opened a brick-and-mortar smokehouse in Blackfoot, and held a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the opening Thursday. Transtrum refers to the new Blackhawk BBQ Pit smokehouse as the “hub.”
Blackhawk pitmaster Bryan Boyce says the permanent location is a huge benefit to the business.
“It’s nice to have this (smokehouse),” Boyce said, “Now our trucks can go out with more firepower.”
The trucks can “re-load, resupply and get back out to the front lines,” Transtrum said at the ribbon-cutting.
The business itself was born out of a shared love for barbecue.
Transtrum, during his time in the U.S. Army, sampled barbecue flavors from around the country and world, and would often stretch his “barbecuing muscles” on the back patio of his home. His neighbor, Boyce, who grew up around dutch oven cooking and shares a lifelong love for barbecue, soon joined him.
Blackhawk BBQ spawned from those backyard family meals.
“I love sharing our barbecue and freedom with people, that’s what this is all about,” Transtrum said. “That’s where our motto — ‘Live Free, Eat BBQ’ — comes from.”
The Blackhawk BBQ Pit smokehouse, like its trucks, has been outfitted with custom-built smokers designed to exact specifications. The first truck and smoker was built in Georgia, where Transtrum spent some of his service time. But the new trucks and smokers were built in Idaho, by Industrial Metal Enterprises in Blackfoot.
The same cannot be said, however, about the wood that Blackhawk loads into the fire pits in those smokers. Transtrum and his partners often go out of state to buy their wood of choice — oak.
“I wish it was growing on every corner and it was easy to get,” he said. “I just love the flavor, and I love what it does to our meats.”
As far as the food goes, Transtrum is happy to have the new permanent location — it allows him to introduce special menu items. Barbecue lovers can be on the lookout for items like burnt ends — a southern staple — and brisket po’ boy sandwiches. And what Transtrum is considering calling ‘Howitzers’: massive jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and brisket, then wrapped with bacon.
That will go along with the everyday menu items, like finger-licking good spareribs, barky brisket and mac-and-cheese cooked in the smokers and touched with that oaky flavor.
“And sauce,” Boyce said, “everything has to be baptized in barbecue sauce.”
As for the atmosphere. Anyone who visits the smokehouse, on South Broadway Street in Blackfoot, can expect the same cheerful service they are used to with the trucks. The decor of the smokehouse will be tributes to those who have served in the military or as emergency responders.
“We’re inviting anybody who has served to bring unit patches, unit stickers, and plaster our walls in here, show some pride for everybody’s service,” Transtrum said.
One of the many TVs in the building will be running a loop of war films, while another will cycle through photos of service members and first responders, and a brief blurb about local heroes.
“Military is a big part of my life,” Transtrum said. “Really, I got to thinking about why it is that we do this. I love my family; I love my friends; I love freedom; I love our country. This gives me a way to serve.”
The Blackhawk smokehouse is located at 90 South Broadway Street in Blackfoot, at the site of the old Texaco station. While hours are not yet definite, Transtrum says the permanent location will be open Wednesday through Saturday — barring major events like the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration in Idaho Falls, when they will close with all hands at the event. Hours for a given day, as well as the location of the trucks, can be found on the company website — BlackhawkBBQPit.com.
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CORRECTION: A previous version of this article mentioned the ribbon cutting was in Rigby. That was an error. The event occurred in Blackfoot. EastIdahoNews.com apologizes for the error.