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Teacher trades books for barbecue
Jeff Newcomer traded the classroom and the wrestling mat for an entirely new challenge: running a barbecue restaurant and smokehouse.
Newcomer, a Fall City resident and former earth sciences and health teacher and wrestling coach at Mount Si High School, partnered with Snoqualmie resident and culinary professional Steven Neubauer to open Big Sky Barbecue and Smokehouse.
Newcomer and Neubauer remodeled the site of Jang and Grace Lee’s former Teriyaki Barn, next to the Milk Barn store at Railroad Avenue and Meadowbrook Way, and opened their doors Aug. 17.
They smoke and barbecue hundreds of pounds of brisket, ribs, pork and chicken daily, and serve up meals and side dishes cooked with time-tested recipes from relatives in big-sky country as well as their own trial-and-error efforts. Neubauer puts his own spin on traditional favorites such as baked beans, cole slaw, potato and macaroni salads.
“A lot of sides and stuff I learned growing up,” said Neubauer, who was raised in Wolf Point, Mont. “I’ve got some tips and tricks from my mother-in-law, Bethany Ash, from Texas.”
“There’s nothing like this around here,” Newcomer said.
“We’ve had a lot of people from Texas in here, saying this is right up here,” Neubauer added.
He aims to instill smokiness and tenderness in the meat, which has a darker sauce.
“It’s got to be moist, it’s got to be tender,” he said.
Neubauer grew up on a farm worked in restaurants as a teenager and went on to attend the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Ore.
He approached Newcomer with the idea of starting the restaurant. Newcomer left his longtime school job and took it on for the challenge.
“It was interesting to me,” he said. “”I’ve got a kid who is. 6 years old Priorities have changed.”
Family members of both Newcomer and Neubauer are helping them run the business.
Big Sky Barbecue is meant to have a family-friendly feel.
Tables are covered in red checkered tablecloths, a big blackboard shows the menu, and the walls feature Neubauer family photos, circa 1979, of cattle ranchers in action.
The restaurant will air live sports on the television inside, and is now serving beer, thanks to a just-received license.
“It’s supposed to be comfortable,” Neubauer said. “It’s not snooty, it’s not about getting carried away. It’s about getting good food.”
Big Sky Barbecue and Smokehouse. is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call the restaurant at (425) 292-9117.