Calling all carnivores! Q Restaurant & Bar moseys authentic barbecue into the heart of Port Chester
We Yankees could learn a thing or two about authentic barbecue. A terrific start would be at Q Restaurant & Bar in Port Chester.
Owners Jeffrey and Jennifer Kohn (the artisan bread experts responsible for The Kneaded Bread, also on Main Street) went on a 25-restaurant barbecue tasting journey before opening Q. They learned well, as is evidenced with the first bite into their tender country biscuits, or with a sip of home-brewed iced tea served in a squat mason jar.
But the meats, of course, take center stage, and the cast here is worthy of vigorous applause; in fact, the Texas barbecue brisket deserves a standing ovation. Brisket is particularly tough meat, so it’s a perfect candidate for the “low-and-slow” cooking method, which is barbecue. Emerging from the Kohns’ Southern Pride-smoker, drenched with tangy sweet barbecue sauce, and served in Texas-sized slices, the meat is superb.
The other meat selections are also praiseworthy. You won’t need your knife for the soft, delicate tatters of pulled pork (pork shoulder that’s been cooked until it can literally be pulled apart by hand). Forget silverware completely for a two-handed assault on the St. Louis ribs, and wipe clean the cup of magnificent deep yellow whole-grain mustard that accompanies the house-smoked sausage. The barbecue chicken, blackened outside and juicy inside, is the least exciting choice among the meats. All require extra napkins or a visit to the dining room washbasin, but who cares? This is authentic barbecue and it’s supposed to be messy.
(One glitch to Q’s meat mastery: the meats are prepared in advance and kept heated beneath hot lamps; on one visit, my brisket sat a bit too long and arrived tepid, having lost much of its smoky flavor.)
While the meats are uniformly terrific (Q may be the perfect place to convert a vegetarian), the sides and specialties are inconsistent. Plate and combo meals come with a choice of two sides plus lightly textured—and, unfortunately, lightly flavored—cornbread (disappointing considering the Kohns’ bread-baking skills; instead, order the flaky, show-stopping country biscuits). The two best sides are the vinegary, sugary collard greens, cooked with bacon and ham hocks, and the hickory pit baked beans. Some of the other side choices include macaroni and cheese (pleasing enough), coleslaw (fine tasting but lacking crunch), and potato salad (too much mayonnaise).
Two winners from the “specialties” section of the menu are crispy house-cut fries and plump chicken wings slathered with a sweet barbecue sauce. A misfire here was the Q-corn, a Mexican-style corn-on-the-cob coated awkwardly in homemade Mexican cheese and garnished with lime wedges.
Q is a bustling place, decked out in orange and laid out in Spartan mess-hall fashion with plastic chairs and tables lined with butcher paper. Ordering is done at the front counter, after which a server leads you to a table, and a short time later your food arrives on metal trays from the action-packed open kitchen. It works—and feels authentic.
Unfortunately, not the same can be said about the desserts—a pecan pie with not a whole pecan to be found, an unremarkable giant brownie sundae, and an overly tart cobbler that was mostly soupy fruit topped by three meager strips of pastry. But I forgot my negative feelings the moment a waft of smoky goodness came from a passing server’s tray.
When you leave Q, belly full of smoke and Southern sass, remember three things: 1) too much reliance on your knife and fork is to reveal yourself as a barbecue novice; 2) what you’re doing in your backyard is grilling, not barbecuing, and 3) what you’re doing at Q is eating authentic, delicious barbecue.
Q RESTAURANT & BAR
112 N. Main St., Port Chester
Tue. to Thurs. 11:30 am-9:30 pm
Fri. and Sat. 11:30 am-10:30 pm
Sun. 1-9 pm
Main Dishes: $8-$20