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Food truck serves up Central Texas barbecue

by Summer Zalesky For the Daily Inter Lake
| May 1, 2022 12:00 AM

Arnold and Leigha Mendez opened their food truck, Arn’s BBQ, with the goal of providing the Flathead Valley with authentic Central Texas barbecue. The couple has always loved making good food as it gathers people together.

“After all,” Arnold laughed. “Everybodys gotta eat!”

Arnold and Leigha got their start by bringing food to small parties. Eventually, Arnold’s barbecue became famous among their friends, family, and coworkers.

“We’d show up to an event, and people would say ‘Hey! Arn’s barbecue is here’ and that’s how we got our name,” Arnold said.

Then, friends asked them to cater small events and from there, their business continued to grow with them opening their food truck in July 2021.

Arnold barbecues beef ribs, smoked turkey and chicken, and the fan favorite is their brisket. Leigha creates the homemade barbecue sauce and southern-inspired sides such as macaroni and cheese and peach cobbler, both of which are made from scratch and gluten-free.

Leigha feels it is important that their food is inclusive.

“There’s no reason to make someone feel like they’re an inconvenience because they have an allergy,” she said.

After spending the last 10 years perfecting their craft, the couple says they refuse to compromise on quality or taste.

The key ingredients to Central Texas barbecue is heavy salt, and heavy pepper to season the meat, and then smoking the meat over post oak, which grows in abundance in Texas. In order to maintain the authenticity of their food, Arnold drives down to Texas three times a year in order to pick up a trailer load of post oak.

“The post oak interacts well with the salt and pepper and we use this on all of our meat,” he said.

While the pair enjoy cooking from the heart, they decided it was important to create recipes for their food to ensure the quality and consistency of each meal.

“We want it to be consistent and what people want to come back to,” he said.

Growing up, both Leigha and Arnold’s families used food as a way to connect with the community and show hospitality to their friends.

“They say there are five love languages… well, the sixth is food,” Leigha laughed.

Despite the lack of a brick-and-mortar restaurant, it is important to them that patrons are still served home-cooked, warm meals.

“I want to provide hospitality even in a commercial environment,” Leigha said.

The Mendezes' four children are also involved in the organization of Arn’s BBQ. Annie, Maddie, Maverick and Cody help their parents by putting together sandwiches, taking orders, giving out samples, and helping with the flow of the queue. The children said that they love learning about entrepreneurship and business management.

Arnold and Leigha want to be the go-to for Texas barbecue in the Flathead Valley.

“When someone thinks of Texas barbecue, I want them to think of us,” Arnold said.

Arn’s BBQ caters for weddings, festivals and other events, and they have streamlined their process to serve about 100 people in 30 to 40 minutes. Arn’s BBQ plans to be at Under the Big Sky Festival in July and Kalispell Brewing Company most Sundays between May and August. Check out their website for dates, times and locations at arnsbbq.com or visit their Instagram page @ArnsBBQ

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Arnold Mendez slices smoked turkey inside the Arn's BBQ food truck in Kalispell on Wednesday, April 20. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Sliced brisket inside the Arn's BBQ food truck on Wednesday, April 20. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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A tray consisting of a beef short rib, brisket, smoked turkey, smoked chicken, jalapenos, pickles, pickled onions and barbeque sauce from the Arn's BBQ food truck in Kalispell on Wednesday, April 20. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Macaroni and cheese, gluten-free peach cobbler and coleslaw from the Arn's BBQ food truck in Kalispell on Wednesday, April 20. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Beef short rib glistens inside the Arn's BBQ food truck in Kalispell on Wednesday, April 20. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Gluten-free peach cobbler from Arn's BBQ in Kalispell on Wednesday, April 20. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Arnold Mendez slices brisket inside the Arn's BBQ food truck in Kalispell on Wednesday, April 20. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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