Venue Review: Queen City Q
The Charlotte Observer
225 E. Sixth St.; 704-334-8437
HITS: Meaty ribs (wet, St. Louis-style), four sauces, fat hush puppies.
MISSES: Dry chicken; limp fries; cold, hard chips with pimento cheese.
PRICES: About $8-$26 (that’s the Super Q, with four meats).
HOURS: 11 a.m.-midnight Monday-Saturday, noon-10 p.m. Sunday.
Queen City Q puts all the barbecue basics in a simple menu, in a simple setting, uptown.
Some of that simplicity works well – the range in the four table sauces, for instance, and terrifically meaty pork ribs, and crunchy-edged, well-fried, fat hush puppies.
But as the place approaches its one-year anniversary, and it revises and refines, some dishes clearly aren’t there yet, from a somewhat inconsistent pulled pork (drier some nights) to what our server called corn “mack chow”: a particularly oily and bland version of the Louisiana maque choux (usually pronounced “mock shoe”).
For the pulled pork, shoulders and pork butt are dry-rubbed and refrigerated overnight before hitting the gas/wood smoker for about 16 hours, says co-owner Bryan Meredith. It’s then hand-pulled, with diners choosing their sauce tableside: There’s the vinegary, chile-flecked Eastern; the not-spicy-hot red Q City Pork; a sweet-tinged mustard; and the Popo, red with a tiny kick. A plate of pork is massive; the sandwich is sizeable as well.
But the best use of the pulled pork might just be the Q-Ban, which combines it with ham, dill pickles, provolone and some mustard on a hoagie bun. It’s the sort of rare twist on barbecue even a traditionalist (a flexibly thinking one) can embrace.
I had an excellent brisket taco – I know, but I had to try – and would order brisket as an entrée. On the other hand, although a taco of sliced, seared tuna was excellent, a tuna sandwich proved dismal: overcooked and dull.
Most popular sides are the mac ’n’ cheese and baked beans (with nubbins of Neese’s sausage!), but I’d add nicely turned out sweet potato fries to the must-dos. Green bean casserole is more soup and fried onions than beans, a shame since the beans are best of the lot. Side salads are little more than lettuce, but fresh each time we tried.
Pimento cheese as an appetizer is the mayo-driven kind, with few pimentos, and came with thick, hard, cold chips that were dreadful. Lean to the wings instead.
The place, in the former LaVecchia’s spot at Seventh Street Station – which means parking is easy, and they validate – is divided into roomy bar and big dining room. Blackboards proclaiming drink specials and happy hour deals (50-cent wings, $1.50 ribs) crown the visible kitchen area, and tin stars, barnwood and a lone horned skull dot deep red walls. Booths, banquette and unupholstered chairs offer varied seating, and the whole place is pretty loud, with a soundtrack that varied from the Stones to country on our visits.
Servers tend to the young and enthusiastic, and step quickly, though they don’t always know details.
Ownership and staffing have changed since Queen City Q opened, with both longtime area barbecue guy Dan “Boone” Gibson and longtime Charlotte restaurateur John Duncan no longer in the mix. Meredith says carefully, “We have not changed anything with the core product that we’ve been putting out since Day One,” including the sauces, made in-house. (The dry rub’s slightly different, he says.) Sue Johnston and Craig Utt are co-owners, and Adam Harvey is in the kitchen, as he’s been since the opening, according to Meredith.
Queen City Q keeps about 20-25 draft beers steadily, with another 15 or 16 in rotation, and, smartly, includes local brews among them. It’s expanded the bottle list to more than 80, and wines to about 40.
The place wants to promote itself more pointedly. “Let me live or die by my core product,” says Meredith. That still needs some tinkering.