Mike Jones, chef and owner of Mizuna in downtown Spokane, is opening a Texas-style barbecue restaurant, also in downtown, this summer.
Austin’s Live Fire Barbecue will specialize in wood-fired, slow-cooked, spice-rubbed brisket, pork ribs and chicken.
But, Jones said, “Sky’s the limit.”
He also wants to experiment with game meats, duck and more. He’s hoping for an opening in early July.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Jones, 43. “The whole idea for this project started about two years ago.”
That’s when he visited Austin, Texas, went out for barbecue just about every night, and completed a short-term stage, or work experience, at a barbecue restaurant. The trip lasted about two weeks and took Jones to Lockhart, the barbecue capital of central Texas. He was enamored was the smoking pits and process, and decided to bring his take on Texas-style barbecue back to Spokane.
“I feel like Spokane has always had barbecue, but usually it’s slow-cooked meat that’s slathered in barbecue sauce.”
Often, he noted, that barbecue sauce isn’t made from scratch in-house.
His new restaurant will specialize in dry-rubbed meats that are “smoked to where you don’t even need barbecue sauce.”
At the heart of the operation: custom-made smokers fashioned by Carlson Sheet Metal Works in Spokane.
Cooking will start at 4 a.m. every day except Sunday when the restaurant will be closed. Otherwise, the restaurant is slated to be open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Austin’s Live Fire Barbecue will serve lunch and dinner. But it won’t be a walk-up counter like so many barbecue joints in the South and Midwest.
It will also offer table service and cloth napkins.
“It’s not going to be fine dining. But it’s going to be full service,” Jones said. “You’re not going to get cattle-herded through.”
For lunch, expect fried chicken, pork ribs, and an array of sandwiches, including a fried shrimp po’ boy and brisket, smoked chicken and Gouda, and pork belly.
For dinner, Jones will offer apple wood-fired steaks – flat iron, ribeye and an extra-large ribeye that’s meant to be shared – along with his barbecue mainstays. His Tomahawk ribeye will be 48 to 60 ounces and, Jones said, “It’s going to be a feast for two people.”
He’ll also offer a burger as well as appetizers such as fried okra, pork belly tacos, a pulled pork quesadilla, fire-grilled prawns, smoked onion rings, and fried wings and thighs.
Another focus: traditional but elevated side dishes. Think smoked Gouda mac and cheese, fire-grilled corn on the cob, barbecue beans with burnt ends, baked potato salad and braised greens.
Don’t skip dessert. Jones is asking his mom for an old family recipe for pecan pie “that’s better than any pecan pie that I’ve ever had in any restaurant. It’s been passed down by her mom and her mom. It’s been around for awhile. She promised to share the secret.”
For the smoker, Jones plans to mostly use apple wood, but he’s looking for a source for oak “that’s not ridiculously expensive.” He’s also considering experimenting with wood blends, perhaps adding a half or quarter of a log of hickory.
Jones has worked at Mizuna since shortly after it opened in 1996. He bought the restaurant 10 years later.
His new barbecue eatery stretches some 3,000 square feet. But the dining area will be fairly small; it will seat about 45 people, Jones said.
But, “It’s a big kitchen,” he said.
He’s hiring about eight servers, two hosts and five or six cooks. And, when it first opens, he expects to be at Austin’s Live Fire Barbecue about 80 percent of the time and at Mizuna the rest. Eventually, he plans to split his time evenly between both restaurants.
Decor at Austin’s Live Fire Barbecue will be “simple” and emphasize the bones of the building: red brick and wood.
“I don’t want it to seem like you’re walking into a country Western bar,” Jones said.
He plans to offer a full, whiskey- and bourbon-forward bar with about eight taps featuring local beer and wines that pair well with barbecue, particularly Spanish wines, California zinfandels, Argentinian malbecs and Washington reds.
Like the decor, Jones said, “I’m going to keep it very simple.”
Austin’s Live Fire Barbecue will be at 421 W. Main Ave.