Friday, March 2, 2012

Q Fanatic – Champlin, MN (Bar-B-Quest 2012)

I’ve heard about this place in Champlin from a few people who have raved about the food. But, to be honest, it’s a little out of the way for me – it’s just before you hit Montana, if you’re coming from St. Paul (that MIGHT be an exaggeration). But since they’re on the Bar-B-Quest 2012 list, we have to go there. LowVee, HotGirlsBrother, and I hit the road after work one day for the long drive. It was my birthday, so we were all really looking forward to birthday ribs. I think it should be a new tradition and requirement for everyone.

We arrived and saw there was a huge smoker outside the place with smoke and delicious smells coming out of it. That’s always a good sign. Also, it’s at the end of a strip mall – another good sign. Also, once we got through the door, we saw the most people eating that we’ve seen since we’ve started this Rib Quest – an amazingly good sign. Just inside the door is a huge menu on the wall for you to stare at and change your mind 529 times. Thankfully, Q Fanatic is very helpful and gives you an explanation of the menu and how to go about ordering, which is super thoughtful. Thank you for dumbing it down for the first-timers!
It shouldn’t be this difficult, but they do have like 15 different delicious-sounding sides. Wow. Then, you have to decide which sauces you’re going to get – they have like 8 more of those! When we finally decided and headed to the counter, we saw an additional board behind the register with specials on it. AAAGGHHH!!!

We all got our usual half slab of baby backs (we got ours dry, but you can get them with sauce on them), which comes with a side and a roll. We all ordered coleslaw as our side, so we didn’t have to share. Then we all got different sides to share. I got mac and cheese, LowVee got spicy potato wedges, and HotGirlsBrother got baked beans. And since I’m a sucker for bacon, I totally caved when I saw the Grilled Slab Bacon Sandwich (which also came with a side – I got corn fritters). Seriously, this was going to stuff our guts to bursting.

We grabbed our plasticware and wetnaps (bonus!) and straws and napkins and REAL butter and found a table in the main dining room. Q Fanatic has Coke products, so you won’t find Dew here. Sadface, but I’ll get over it. We were amazed at how awesome everyone’s food looked. People were genuinely happy with their food from the comments we heard. We were also amazed by the handwashing station they had setup in the corner of the dining room. Sometimes wetnaps aren’t enough. Well played, Q Fanatic.

The food came out and absolutely filled our table. I’ll try to hit all the high points. Sides first.Arial Shot (thanks, HotGirlsBrother!)

The corn fritters were balls of deep fried dough with corn niblets in them. They weren’t bad, or anything, but you could tell right away they would take up valuable rib real estate in your guts, so we all just ate one. Deliciously fried flavor though.

The spicy potato wedges were awesome, actually. They came with a chipotle sour cream dipping sauce, which was really nice, since these things were actually spicy. And delicious. Seriously, we ended up fighting over these things.

The mac and cheese was also the best we’ve had since we started this rib quest. Very good cheese to noodle ratio and the right amount of salt and pepper in it. Really top notch stuff (turns out it was even better reheated the next day).

The coleslaw we THOUGHT was plain, and it was (basically shredded cabbage and mayo with no pepper or carrots or anything). However, it was the perfect accompaniment to the spicy sauces we all ordered for the ribs. Really, we stopped complaining right after we tried the coleslaw with the ribs, since it was perfect.

The best side of all were the baked beans. These not only had amazing flavor in them, but also had huge chunks of meat in them. I’m not even sure what kind of meat this was, and that’s the way I like it. Meat and beans – the best we’ve had on this adventure. I didn’t think anyone would be able to beat C&G Smoking BBQ’s beans, but this actually pulled ahead in the bean category.

Moving to the Grilled Slab Bacon Sandwich – it came with three half-inch-thick pieces of pork belly, so we all divvied them up and put them on our own buttered garlic rolls (which were also worth fighting over). The bacon was incredible. It melted in your mouth and had us shocked with how good it was. Killer bacon, it was. Pair amazing bread with amazing bacon, and yo’ve got yourself a winner.

On to the ribs themselves, which is what this is all about. They were REALLY tender and falling off the bones, like they should be. Perfect flavor, even without the sauce. Excellent meat with no gristle at all. Very thick meat sections and even the end pieces were tender and juicy and not burned up. The rub I can’t say enough about – sometimes the rub is an afterthought, but not here – they took time to nail this rub. Awesome. There were at least six bones in each half slab, and we even think we had more than six in a couple. They don’t skimp on anything here. Including flavor – these ribs are going to put up much more of a battle than we expected. The hype people threw at me was actually not hyped enough. I told HotGirlsBrother and LowVee that I was going to find the people who raved about it and then yell at them for not making me come out here sooner. That’s just rude.

You didn’t need the sauce, but we got so many different kinds, we had to try them all. The honey BBQ was mild, but had a great flavor, so I ended up eating most of that, even though I like the spicy stuff. The chipotle BBQ sauce was a medium heat, but also had a great flavor to it. A little smoky, without the overwhelming flavor of chipotle. Just about perfect. The pepper vodka BBQ sauce was the best though. Very hot and had some tang to it, as well. Really, this was fantastic BBQ sauce. They do have a ghost pepper sauce behind the counter if that’s your thing, but none of us went for it.

We thought we were done. Everything worked out really well, though we did have the most number of to-go boxes we’ve ever had. We all left with like three containers. Thankfully, they have a self-serve to-go area, so you don’t have to keep asking for more containers and lids. Very well thought out, if I do say so.

And of course, we had to hit the hand washing station. You know, because it’s THERE.

And on the way out, you can check out the blueprints of the place, in case you're planning a break-in or think you'd like to suggest a new addition or seating configuration. Helpful!

As we went to leave, we passed a small OTHER counter that had a couple of really large cookies behind the glass. They looked awesome. So awesome that LowVee couldn’t help herself. She went and asked the girl at the counter about them. The girl nonchalant-ly commented that her mother calls her at work every day begging her to bring home some of those cookies. Well, that’s a pretty good endorsement. LowVee got one. It was a chocolate chip, white chocolate chip, and butterscotch chip oatmeal cookie. And, it smelled amazing. We got out to the car and she broke off a piece for each of us. All of us went insane for a second. I’m not kidding you. These were life-changing cookies. We started to drive away and then made HotGirlsBrother stop the car and go back, so we could buy the remaining two cookies behind the counter. LowVee and I ran inside, and the guy at the counter had JUST bought the last two cookies of the night. Seriously, our life was over THAT fast. It was such a spirit crusher. Which made it even more hilarious when we went back out to the car empty handed and LowVee discovered HotGirlsBrother had eaten a much larger bite of her cookie than she expected. Like, a relationship-crippling size bite of this glorious cookie. I’ll quit going on and on about this cookie, but I’m not kidding you – you HAVE to have a cookie when you leave here. And you can’t take it home and eat it. You need to eat it right away. Best cookie I’ve ever had (sorry, Mom).

Q Fanatic is a fantastic restaurant. There are very fun people working there. Very delicious food. Great variety of sides and sauces and rib combinations. If you’re impatient while waiting for ribs, they sell the pig dice game at the counter – the one where you drop pigs onto a table and depending on how they land, you win or lose. It’s like some sort of pork necromancer game of the devil, clearly.

And you also have the beauty of an incredibly long drive home so you get to hash and over-hash every detail of your meal and compare it to the rest of the ribs you’ve eaten over the past year. This little excursion fared VERY well on the rib-delicio-meter. Mr. Pig Stuff in Shakopee has its work cut out for it next week…

Here is the bracket so you can keep track of who’s still in the game and who’s out!

Top 5 things about Q Fanatic
1. Amazing ribs
2. Baked Beans
3. Grilled Slab Bacon Sandwich
4. Spicy Potato Wedges
5. Mac and Cheese

Bottom 5 things
1. It’s quite a drive from the Twin Cities
2. I only have 3 stomachs, this place requires 8
3. We didn’t get enough of the life-changing cookies
4. You WILL change your mind a ton of times while trying to decide what to order
5. Honestly, there was not a single thing bad about the food or experience. We loved every second of it!


Kristi said...

I LOVE Q Fanatic!!! So darn good! Way too far of a drive though which is a bummer! Glad you guys loved it as much as we did :)
Kristi @ Twin Cities Restaurant Blog

qfanatic01 said...

Thank you for a very nice review. It's folks like you that make the 80 plus hour work weeks worth it and makes up for those that just don't understand the BBQ quest

Your humbled host

Chao said...

Charlie, you've got a great thing going up in Champlin. I've already sent a few people your direction, so I'm hoping it's going to bring in some new word-of-mouth/blog customers. I can't wait to come back up to your shop again!

Jen said...

I just realized Q Fanatic is on our way back to Fargo. Packing a cooler this trip:)

Anonymous said...

I am always searching for good bbq, I would make the pilgrimage to KC 4-5 times each year for arthur bryant's and oklahoma joe's but it would be GREAT to find something local!

AP said...

My sister and I have been talking about hitting this place ever since we read your review. Tonight she's up that way so she's bringing some home for me. I can't wait!

Chao said...

I'm sooo jealous, AP!!!! Enjoy. And call her and remind her not to forget the cookie. You won't regret it.