Downtown Hays barbecue restaurant gets ready to ship its homemade specialty sauces

Alice Mannette
Hays Daily News

Opening a barbecue restaurant in Hays during a pandemic seemed daunting, but Philip Kuhn, a professional chef, did not want to change his plans. So five months ago, he opened Blue Smoke Barbecue on Main Street.

Because the restaurant makes everything to order, including barbecued burnt ends and bourbon baked beans, once it runs out of its barbecue brisket, chicken, pork or rib dishes, Blue Smoke simply sells out — until the next day, when they create more slow-cooked meats.

With so many customers asking to buy the barbecue joint's sauces and rubs, Kuhn decided he would bottle and sell them, and then he decided to one-up himself and create a monthly subscription box. The restaurant will start taking orders for the boxes on May 15 and shipping them on June 1.

"There are these die-hard barbecue people out there," Kuhn said. "We wanted to show them in every Blue Smoke box our take on barbecue and our passion for barbecue."

Each box will contain a sauce, a rub, a Blue Smoke recipe card, a barbecue utensil and a product from the store — a T-shirt, hat, cozy or apron. The first box revolves around pulled pork, so it will feature a bottle of Blue Smoke Kansas City Barbecue Sauce, some rub, the house pulled pork recipe, a Blue Smoke Barbecue t-shirt and a utensil used for shredding the meat.

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Philip Kuhn of Blue Smoke Barbecue on Main Street in Hays prepares a milkshake.

Subscribers can order for four-, six- or 12-month intervals, and of course, there will be a holiday-themed box.

Kuhn, who was trained at the culinary school of the Art Institute of Colorado, created four homemade sauces and seven rubs. But soon, he will expand the line, including a blueberry barbecue sauce. 

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"We have a lot of other sauces in our back pocket," Kuhn said. "We put a lot of thought and effort into each sauce and each rub and how it tastes and how it reacts with each of our meats."

Blue Smoke Barbecue of Hays gets ready to market their specialty homemade sauces.

Kuhn, who also owns The Press in downtown Hays and was a chef in Dodge City and at the Hutchinson airport before coming back to Hays, where he was raised, said sauces are made to perform on meat and not by themselves. Because of this companionship, each sauce he develops has a dramatically different flavor.

"Tangy Memphis has more of a mustard base, while Texas Hot is hot; it's more of a jalapeno-based barbecue sauce," Kuhn said. "The Carolina, which has more of a vinegar base, is spicy."

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But, he said, the Carolina hits you more at the front of your mouth, while the Texas hits you in the back of your mouth. Kuhn tries to overlap the flavors into the foods, rubs and sauces. 

"We try to layer different flavors into the food so they hit you in different senses in your mouth," he said. "I want people (that) when they think barbecue they think Blue Smoke."