Every working firehouse has at least one notable pitmaster in its ranks, but as a rule, the only people who get to eat firehouse barbecue are firefighters. Thanks to Wichita’s Jetman, John E. Thien, firehouse swine dining is no longer exclusive to firefighters.
By ARDIE A. DAVIS
Special to The Star
When the Jetman and his wife leased the former Engine Company Number 8 firehouse building, installed two vintage Oyler barbecue pits, and equipped a prep room, kitchen, serving station and dining area, Wichita opened a new era of swine dining.
Now, thanks to Jetman John E. Thien and his wife, Susie, the people of Wichita — and visiting Chow Towners — can enjoy top-notch barbecue in a firehouse setting. Although the firefighter sliding poles from the upstairs sleeping quarters to the engine house below are gone and the holes are covered, there is no mistaking that you’re in a firehouse. Firefighter helmets, clothing, memorabilia and gear adorn the walls and floor around the perimeter.
I have been a fan of Jet Bar-B-Q since I ate my first rib at the original joint some three decades ago. Those tender, moist, smoky ribs kissed with Jet’s unique tomato base sauce can verge on being addictive. Wise and considerate pitmaster that he is, John serves the ribs dry so you can add as much or as little sauce as you wish. They are delicious without sauce, but I like Jet sauce so much that I always add a little to my ribs. I also savor samples of brisket, sausage, pulled pork and turkey with ribs. They are top notch!
Last Wednesday, when chef Paul Kirk and I stopped at Jet for a visit and barbecue feast, a steady stream of customers lined up at the serving counter to pick up and pay for a Jetman-smoked Thanksgiving turkey. Of the 120 who bought a pre-ordered whole smoked turkey, more than half went home with a Jet sandwich or some Jet ribs.
Brisket, pulled pork; sausage; or “The Jester,” a beef and hot link sandwich; with sides of Jet beans and potato salad, were the popular take-out choices. As a special Thanksgiving “thank you for your business,” Jetman offers a complimentary shot of Wild Turkey.
When Chef Paul remarked to Jetman, “I’ve been past here at least four times on business trips, and you haven’t been open.”
“Just remember W-T-F,” John replied. “Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, that’s when we’re open — with the exception of Black Friday, when we’re always closed.”
There is real barbecue, and there is fake barbecue. There is good barbecue, and there is bad barbecue. Jet barbecue is really good barbecue!
1100 E. Third St.
One block east of Washington on Third
John E. Thien, owner – The Jetman