Rural drive-thru popping up this fall
Foothills: Big Sky BBQ promises authentic Texas style barbecue on Highway 2A
Wednesday, Aug 24, 2016 06:00 am
A new hub for business in the Okotoks area is growing along Highway 2A north of Okotoks.
Ground broke Monday for Big Sky BBQ, at Highway 2A and 306 Avenue. The area is already home to several businesses, including Cycleworks, a horse tack and feed store, a home-builder and the Stash Luxury Garages as well as the Okotoks Agricultural Society.
Big Sky owners Rob and Judy Bolton are excited for the opportunity to bring authentic Texas barbecue to southern Alberta.
“There’s definitely a lot of passion behind it, and it’s going to be awesome, it’s going to be fun,” said Rob Bolton.
They had scoped out the highway commercial-zoned property years ago, but the price was high and they hoped to see some downward pressure as the recession continued into 2016. When land showed no sign of relaxing prices, they decided to bite the bullet and jump in.
The concept is simple, he said. A small barn-style building with seating for 40 featuring wooden timbers and galvanized steel accents and a large picnic area will provide options for dine-in customers, though the biggest focus will be on drive-thru and take-out service.
“Having the drive-thru pick-up window is huge for us, because everybody coming home from the city to Okotoks will be able to pull in an easily access that and get back on the highway super easy,” said Bolton.
Though the corridor between Okotoks and the overpass at Highway 2 is intended to be a commercial district in the future, MD of Foothills Mayor Larry Spilak said the land Big Sky BBQ will inhabit is currently the last parcel zoned for highway commercial in the area.
“It’s not anything we’re chasing after right now,” said Spilak. “That lot was available for this purpose and he lapped it up. We’ll see what else comes in the future, but for now this is exciting.”
He said the restaurant is unique in the MD.
“We’re certainly looking forward to being able to have another outlet for our residents to eat,” said Spilak. “I think it’s a great concept, without a whole lot of seating capacity, focusing more on the take-out service than anything.”
He said growing traffic at the intersection could mean traffic signals will be required with additional development in the area.
“What it’s doing really is it’s putting us closer to a situation where lights are going to be required,” he said. “It’s getting very close already, with the other businesses there and the number of residents.”
Bolton has ambitious plans for his new barbecue business, including a line-up of southwest favourites like brisket and pulled pork. An app will allow customers to pre-order their food and specify a time for pick-up, he said.
Running from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Big Sky BBQ will also serve coffee and breakfast for the morning crowd, including omelets and muffins made with the smoked pork and bacon.
“We’ll definitely be the first ones doing it to this degree in Alberta, for sure,” said Bolton. “It’s authentic, and that’s the whole thing, just having really good barbecue food.”
He’s honed his craft on the road, participating in barbecue competitions across North America over the past few years. Bolton was also certified with the Kansas City Barbeque Society, learning about proper techniques.
He plans to spread the knowledge he’s gained to customers. From selling Backwoods Smokers and their own signature rubs and sauces to hands-on lessons, the crew at Big Sky BBQ will share their craft with anyone interested in trying it out themselves.
“We’re basically selling our business,” said Bolton with a laugh. “But really the more people I can get passionate about barbecue, I call that a win.”
Barbecue has become a passion for the Boltons, who enjoy experimenting with different combinations when they put their meat on the smoker.
“It’s a science, it really is,” said Bolton. “The sky’s the limit. There’s no set way you have to do it every time. You keep playing, and that’s one thing we will always do – keep playing and having fun with cooking.”
He’s looking forward to featuring local farmers at Big Sky BBQ. Different beef producers in the Foothills will be highlighted for a week at a time where their beef will be served and they will be invited to bring in a group of friends.
“It’s getting some farmers who do a lot of big beef in the industry a little more recognized right in their community,” said Bolton. “We’ll do as much as we can to supply through local farmers.”