Bigfork Restaurant Slings Sauce to Survive Winter

Kiska's restaurant will be selling its popular BBQ sauce across the valley

By Justin Franz
Dawg House BBQ at Kiska's by the Lake in Bigfork on March 30, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

BIGFORK – Last summer, while patrons at Kiska’s By The Lake enjoyed the upstart restaurant’s variety of barbecue sauces, they would frequently inquire about purchasing the tanging toppings. Co-owner Jory Monroe said dozens of people would ask every day, but unfortunately for the customers, the answer was always, “no.”

But when winter came and the new downtown restaurant closed for the season, Monroe remembered those barbecue-loving customers and thought selling Kiska’s unique sauce would be the best way to make it through the offseason. Within a few weeks, Monroe and his mother, Kiska’s co-owner Jennifer Vickstrom, created Dawg House BBQ.

“This was never on our radar when we opened this restaurant, but people just liked the sauce so much,” Monroe said. “It really bummed us out when people would ask to buy it and we said we don’t sell it.”

This spring, the newly formed company is releasing a line of four sauces, four seasonings and three rubs. Dawg House BBQ products are already available at the Ferndale Market and at Markus Foods in Whitefish. They will also be available for sale in a few short weeks at Kiska’s when it reopens for the season. The owners hope to start selling it throughout western Montana soon.

The sauces and rubs are rooted in Monroe’s family history. Monroe grew up in Oregon and Alaska, but his father’s family originally hailed from Oklahoma. As a young boy, Monroe quickly developed a love for southern food, especially barbecue. When he moved to Alaska as a teenager, he often requested that his mom recreate the southern flavors of his youth.

Vickstrom owned a restaurant in Alaska and she was no stranger to the business, having worked in some of her mother’s five different eateries over the years. When they came to Montana, opening up a restaurant in Bigfork seemed like a logical step. Vickstrom and Monroe picked what they knew best: comfort food, especially barbecue. Kiska’s opened its doors in 2015 and since then has become a popular spot in Bigfork. Buoying its growing popularity are its signature sauces, some of which are inspired by the food Monroe ate as a youngster.

Dawg House BBQ was formed late last year and quickly sought approval from government regulators to produce and sell sauce. The company got the OK earlier this year and since has produced more than 2,000 12-ounce bottles. For now, all of the sauce is made in the kitchen at Kiska’s where it is then bottled by hand. It’s a time consuming process but one Vickstrom said is worthwhile.

“This has helped keep us and some of our employees busy during the offseason,” Vickstrom said.

Dawg House BBQ is offering sweet, pepper, spicy and smoky sauces. The rubs can be used on chicken, pork and other meats. The seasonings include a burger and fry seasoning, Cajon seasoning, blackening seasoning and a “mutt salt,” which is branded as a salt substitute. Monroe said all of the sauces and seasonings use bold ingredients, including coffee, that give the products strong flavorings.

For now, Monroe and Vickstrom plan to keep making the sauce at Kiska’s – possibly even hiring a night shift during the summer to keep production up – but eventually they hope to purchase a commercial kitchen somewhere outside of town.

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