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A Case for Q Fanatic

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I consider myself a BBQ aficionado. My credibility on the topic may be lessened in some people's eyes by the fact that I haven't been to most of the country's BBQ hotbeds (North Carolina being the lone exception), but I'd like to think I can tell when I'm eating good BBQ. Is the meat tender, flavorful, and juicy? These principles are universal in meat cooking and if they are missing, you can tell.

I've been to Q Fanatic a handful of times, but not since last spring. In that time, I've made a point of trying as many other local BBQ joints as I could: Big Daddy's, Bayport, Rooster's, and Ted Cook's come to mind. All of them do certain things well, but since they opened a few years back, I've had a soft spot for Q Fanatic and thought it was time to return. Boy am I glad I did.

Regional arguments and preparations aside, what I had last night was the best BBQ I've ever had...anywhere. As you drive in, the intoxicating aroma hits you from the multiple smokers that sit outside the building. After much deliberation, myself and my dining companions ordered both types of ribs (back and spare), brisket, pulled pork, and various sides. Everything was simply outstanding. Both types of ribs had a nice crust on them, a nice pink hue on the inside, great flavor and were tender as can be. The pulled pork was juicy and flavorful...perfect. Next time, I'm getting it in sandwich form with slaw on top. I'm already dreaming about that. I much prefer their style to the chopped and vinegar laden NC style. The brisket was also very good, though I could see how some purists might have issue with the lack of crust. Still, flavorful and fork tender, just like it should be.

Sides ranged from potato wedges, baked beans, mac and cheese, to the garlic rolls that come with every dinner order (super addicting). And last but not least, if you see one of their giant cookies sitting at the counter, grab it. They are much more than an afterthought.

If you've never been to Q Fanatic, or you haven't been there recently, make it a point to go soon. They are on top of their game, and no one in the state is doing it better.

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  1. I agree! My story is similar-- I really liked it the first couple of times I went but I think they are knocking it out of the park these days. I told Boy I think it's the best BBQ I've ever had, and I HAVE sampled in all the big hitter regions. It's ten miles better than anything else I've had here, that's for sure. And their cole slaw is absolutely stellar--the best restaurant cole slaw I've ever had at any genre of restaurant.

    I was just talking about this place with a friend yesterday. She and her guy think Bakers is pretty good. I'm bringing them to Qfanatic next weekend and expect to score major points.

    1. I was not as impressed. Our pulled pork sandwiches were overpowered by the bread. I would have preferred a bun instead. The mild honey BBQ sauce had a wierd metalic aftertaste.

      I think the best - an least known - is the Rack Shack in Burnsville. It was featured on the Travel Channel on Man vs Food. Honest BBQ! Give it a try...

      1 Reply
      1. re: steve0315

        I've only tried it once, but I was thoroughly disappointed by Rack Shack. :( .


      2. Thanks for the report. I'm going to have to give it a try. For reference points, I love Bayport for their brisket, Ted's for their ribs, and Big Daddy's for their chicken.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rp1760

          I too have to get back to Q fanatic.I was there last summer.I really like the brisket.The ribs had too much bark on them that day,but will give them another try.The pulled Shikken should be pulled from the menu.Too lean of a meat to pull in my opinion and goes south if it sits,unlike pulled pork.Top class potato wedges and buns.The coleslaw was a loser.A one trick pony with haphazardly shredded/sizing of cabbage and flavorless dressing.I believe they are gifted pitmasters there,but get flustered at having to run the business.

        2. I finally went this weekend. We went early on Saturday because our friends were convinced that because of recent Food Network attention to Q Fanatic, it would be hard to get a seat. We arrived at 5pm but had no trouble getting a seat. By 5:30pm the ordering line was out the door and the owner shouted out that food orders would take about 1 hour. Most of the line left. We walked up and each couple ordered the 2-person Q Value Slow Smoked Sampler. The sampler includes 1/3 pound of beef brisket, 1/3 pound of pulled smoked chicken, and 1/3 pound of pulled pork along with a choice of two sides and four rolls for $18. A good value in my book. We added a half rack of dry baby backs because I wanted to know how the ribs tasted. Our companions ordered the sampler but added a half rack of the wet spare ribs.

          First of all, the food came after about 30-40 minutes. Overall we were all very impressed with the meats, and that's what it's all about. Everyone raved about the dry baby backs that we ordered. I liked it and the rub was good, not too overpowering. The wet spare ribs were good but were truly wet, meaning that it looked like they slathered them with sauce post-cooking versus grilling on the sauce. Just a point of clarification.

          For sides, we were all impressed with the mashed potatoes and the potatoes gratinee. The corn fritters were okay. We all liked that they had corn bits inside, but it was basically a fried piece of dough without any flavor of its own. Dunking it in sauce helped. I was looking for my staple bbq companion of corn bread, and was as close as we could get. I personally wanted more corn meal in the fritter or just a fried cornmeal fritter. The rolls were decent and tasted like they were basted with butter and garlic. I ate two or three of them but most of the others concentrated on the meats.

          I've been to Ted Cook's, Paston Hamilton's, and most of the bigger bbq restaurants in town. I think that Q Fanatic did the meats (overall) the best but lacked a little bit with the sides. It was well worth the wait for food and I'd wait the full hour next time. The only thing that wasn't cool was the 2-beer CAP. They won't serve you more than that so while waiting for food, I had to switch to soda. I don't mind their motto which is "we'd rather lose your business than our own" but with long food waits, they should figure out a better way to deal with apparent "rowdiness" than to cut us all off like children! On an environmental note, I also think that they should recycle their cans and bottles. However, any of these down sides are overshadowed by the awesome meats coming out of that place. Hopefully their expansion doesn't kill the golden goose - unless they smoke it!

          1. I've tried Q Fanatic twice. Both times were more than 6 months ago and both times I was disappointed.

            1. Kitchen Window in Calhoun Square is getting ready to unleash a hoard of BBQ weaponry in a couple of demo days later this month. Get yourself some hardware. Get to know a butcher who knows his or her way around a carcass. Therein lies the best Q.

              2 Replies
              1. re: keg

                I've got a smoker, a charcoal, and a gas grill and have my rib process nailed down. That doesn't mean that I can't / shouldn't sample what other people do!

                I appreciate the notice on the Kitchen Window. I haven't been there in a LONG time but might have to check out a few of their offerings. Do you know any more about what weekend this will happen?

                EDIT - I just went to their website and saw that it's Saturday and Sunday of this weekend, the 14th and 15th.

              2. I too made my 2nd trip to QF.The place has expanded and there were 2 late teens manning the counter.The former order counter inside the door is now just a glass case with what looked like stuffed animals or some other out of place figurines in it.The Tv is still playing the same old tiring GF thing - geez give it a rest.Ok,the Q.I didnt see any smoke or a stack of wood out back.The brisket was good,tender and no smoke ring.The ribs had zero ring and appeared to be just oven cooked.The Shikken actually was better this time,however I thought I tasted some fake liquid smoke being used there.The coleslaw was better this time,a good tang and someone had their eyes open this time when they shredded it.I tried the spicy potato wedges this time and they were good with the dip. I did like their espresso BBQ sauce.Would I go back? No.Why not? Not real Q.No smoke and no long and slow on a smoker.I'll stick with my father n laws BBQ ribs on his smoker and my 10 hour pork shoulder brought up to 190',pulled and topped with a western N.C. sauce.The best Q I've had anywhere is Oklahoma Joe's in K.C. Yep,I'd make the drive there from here.

                2 Replies
                1. re: shikken

                  +100 for Oklahoma Joe's. It might be the best BBQ closest to the twin cities.

                  1. re: shikken

                    No smokers? They have at least 3 or 4 of them in the parking lot, just to the right of the front door. When I went, the smell of smoke hit us a block or two away, and the smoke ring was obvious in the ribs. I would agree that it is sadly not present in the brisket.

                  2. There was 1 trailer smoker in the area you mentioned and it wasnt being used,as its for off site use.There was no smoke or real wood slow Q happening there the day I went.I do like the sides at this place and the buns are famous.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: shikken

                      That smoker is used exclusively for the restaurant and is used for fresh smoked meats every day.

                    2. Smoke rings? Honestly. I don't want to get into a whole BBQ debate here but for 99% of restaurant-goers, the #1 issue is how does the food taste and not whether or not someone detected smoked rings. BBQ purists are who they are, but I'd bet that most people wouldn't care if the ribs/brisket came out of an easy-baked oven as long as it tastes good...and the Q meat tastes good IMO.

                      1. I just checked out this joint. It's not bad. I wouldn't go so far as putting it at the top. They make a pretty good attempt at trying to be legitimate bbq. The smoke was there, but it was way too much. The smoke needs to enhance, not overpower. But the rub was pretty good, and the brisket was tender and flavorful. Outside of that, the sauces and sides were repulsive. The cole slaw tasted like it's been fermenting in someone's socks for the past year. The accouterments are pretty important for BBQ. Q fanatic missed the mark on that one.