Q BBQ—Wood That It Were

May 2013 View more

N2013_05_01_047TABLEFor most new restaurants, a quick pop-in to check out the ambiance, or a scan of the menu on the front window, is all a prospective diner might need to start working up a rough draft of his or her first impression. A barbecue joint, on the other hand, is a different animal entirely. Here, the thing that matters most is usually stacked out back. It’s the woodpile—and that’s where this all starts and ends.

Year-Round Ribfest

N2013_05_01_041DININWhen Q BBQ announced plans to expand into Naperville a little more than a year ago, it was instructive to learn that the owners had run into a minor dustup in their original LaGrange location stemming from a neighboring boutique that claimed the smoke from the Q outlet there had befouled its inventory. Without getting into the he-said, she-said miscellany of the matter, the tale suggested that at least Q had a firm grasp of the all-important hierarchy of barbecue— the wood is always at the top. Stick to that simple truism, and good things tend to happen on the rest of the journey to the table.
Naperville is a town with a reputation for knowing good barbecue, thanks in large part to having built our signature summer festival around the concept, so there’s something of a perceived standard to be met in these parts. In this regard, Q came to town more than ready for the challenge. Gone from the former Jilly’s space are the cigar smog and piano sing-alongs, replaced by the unmistakable aroma of burning timber and the harmonious duet of smoke and meat.

Basics and Beyond

N2013_05_01_049TABLEThe menu at Q respects the craft by not straying far beyond the slow-cooked standards, which demonstrates not so much a lack of ambition, as simply knowing how best to keep the ball in one’s wheelhouse. Brisket (sliced or chopped), ribs, and pulled chicken or pork are naturally the main attractions here, but smoked sausage also makes a welcome appearance. Burnt ends get a rare suburban cameo and displaced Memphians looking for a reasonable facsimile of Gus’ crispy chicken wings will find a valiant attempt here as well. While Q touts its variety of regionally inspired sauces, barbecue purists will be happy to note that these are rightfully treated as condiments and enhancers, as opposed to blankets beneath which to hide substandard cooking or shoddy cuts.
There are also a handful of salads from which to choose, the presence of which almost threatens the integrity of the whole operation. But at least one can opt to drop a pile of pulled pork or brisket on top of those greens for a modest up-charge, so that’s a crisis averted.

N2013_05_01_048TABLEAlmost every meat we tried—and we came in with the intention of casting a pretty wide net—bore the signature pink smoke ring that is the true hallmark of slow-cooking done right, resulting in the kind of mouth-watering flavors and consistencies that rendered the four aforementioned sauce options almost superfluous—though the South Carolina mustard varietal was a standout. Sides, while fairly typical for the genre, are exceedingly well executed, from macaroni and cheese and cornbread, to Cole slaw and baked beans. That said, the delicious Q puppies—hush puppies just begging for a dip in one of those sauces—deserve special mention.

So shed no tears, Naperville, when the last skyrocket sparkles and fades this July, and those seasonal awards-seekers pack up their traveling meat wagons and hit the road. The folks at Q have enough wood to get us through the other 11 months of the year.

103 S. Main Street