Q Fanatic in Champlin

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

It is infuriating that Q Fanatic is one of Minnesota’s best-kept gastronomic secrets. This is a place that should be elbow-to-elbow crowded, seven nights a week, and resisting the temptation to expand and choke on its own success. Q Fanatic is doing barbecue at a level that stacks up, rib for rib, against the kind of stuff they’re doing at the grand-champion 17th Street Bar & Grill near East St. Louis, or at Allen and Son in Chapel Hill, NC. This is stuff that kicks Famous Dave’s into the dust and merits the long drive from the metro area. Grit your teeth, and get in the car. There is a rainbow of perfectly cooked meat waiting at the end of your voyage.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Chef Charlie Johnson is cooking high quality St. Louis cut pork ribs low and slow, putting a beautiful carbon char on sweet, tender meat that needs just a gentle tug to come off of the bone. This isn’t meat that has given up the ghost, slipping flaccidly off the bone like a slice of Jell-O; it’s still got fight left in it, but it’s supple, and layered with smoke and flavor.

The careful handling of meat at Q Fanatic is such that you can dispense with the sauces entirely and eat it dry. The meal will be a good one, and you’ll marvel at the idea that you ever needed that nasty, sugar-sweet ketchup-tasting junk that is practically industry standard in this country.

You would, however, be making a serious mistake. Q Fanatic has a variety of house sauces that range in quality from “excellent” to “killer.” Charlie’s Spicy Pepper Vodka BBQ sauce has a spikey bright kick to it, and is a perfect foil for sleepy-eyed, decadent meat. Espresso BBQ has depth and funk that plays beautifully with the carbon and soul of the food; even something as pedestrian sounding as Southern Mustard has a gritty, powerful punch to it that makes it really ring out on the diner’s palate.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The atmosphere is nothing special, although the staff are invariably friendly as hell. There is a need for beers, and perhaps sweet potato pie or a Mason jar of banana pudding for dessert. But these are tangential issues; Q Fanatic is a barbecue joint, and the barbecue is stunning, the sauces creative and balanced, the sides all honest and house-made, the menu reasonably sized and just as ambitious as it should be — no fried chicken or fancy burgers creeping in from the margins. The original Q Fanatic is clearly the chef; the soon-to-be converted fanatics are the customers fortunate enough to make the trek to Champlin.

Q Fanatic

Rating: ★★★★ (Superb)

BBQ in Champlin
180 Miller Rd
Champlin, MN 55316
763.323.6550
OWNER/CHEF: Charles “Charlie” Johnson
HOURS:
Tue-Thu 11am-2pm 4-8pm
Fri 11am-9pm
Sat 12pm-9pm
Sun 12pm-8pm
Mon CLOSED
BAR: None
RESERVATIONS/RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN/VEGAN: No/No
ENTREE RANGE: $6-17

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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23 Comments

  1. Great tip. I’m in the mood for some serious Q and it sounds like these guys get it. Heading to Hilton Head next week so I may have to get myself back on the BBQ train with a visit before I depart.

  2. I’ve been twice – pretty much by chance, I’m in Anoka on Mondays, so the grueling BBQ commute is built in. It’s pretty terrific – lunch specials are a pretty good deal too. I’ve had the pulled pork, rib tibs and the sausage and peppers sandwich, but I have yet to move into entree territory.

    It definitely blows famous dave’s out of the water, but I wouldn’t say that is the twin cities barbeque standard, either.

  3. Dude, I was in Kansas City a couple weeks ago and ate at Arthur Bryant’s which got me to thinking, “Why doesnt Minnesota have a place with authentic BBQ?” I believe Q Fanatic fits the bill. Thanks for the great find!

    I’ll link this to my site http://www.mytwinscities.com

  4. Thanks for this post. I need more good reasons to visit the in-laws in Champlin, and more places to sneak out for food and beer.

  5. Soooooooo good. Just made a trip up there this afternoon. Please open a location in the city!

  6. Just had a great (though crazy soggy) pulled pork sandwich for lunch. Wouldn’t recommend the cornfritters, but the pulled pork and coleslaw were damned good.

  7. Andy Berndt 02/27/2010 Reply

    Read the post about Q Fanatic’s bacon, and had to check the place out. It was a 40 minute drive for a St. Pauly, but worth every mile, this place kicks ass. You could taste the smoke in each bite, the sides were tasty and not overcooked, and it has by far the best brisket I’ve had outside of Texas. I’ll definitely be back!

  8. I read about QFanatic in Minnesota Monthy so we drove 35 miles to try it out.I ordered the dry pork ribs and my wife had the pulled pork. We had to wait 45 minutes for a meal that was in no way a gastronomic delight. The ribs, though tender and flavorfull, seemed undercooked on the bottoms. My wife couldn’t eat her coleslaw because it was so strong with vinager. She also couldn’t eat the onion straws because they were soaked in grease. I don’t think 6 ribs and one pulled pork sandwich was worth $27.00. Sadly disappointed.

  9. Linda Johnson 11/23/2010 Reply

    Extremely disappointed. Traveled 45 miles to try this bbq. The ribs were extremely fatty. We didnt get the sides we ordered and when we called to complain we were not offered any good solution, except the next time we come in they will make it right. Don’t think I will be driving that far again for this food. This food is way over priced and not worth the effort.

  10. Mark Johnson 12/27/2010 Reply

    I have found a new home in the twin cities. After 2 trips to the Jack Daniels BBQ Invitational, I no longer have to travel for great bbq. I read about Q Fanatic in Minnesota Monthly and decided I needed to give it a shot. I consider myself a fanatic for good bbq. Last year on the way from FL to Minneapolis, I stopped at 9 bbq places along the way. A trip to Chicago last year brought me to Carsons (hated it) and Smoque BBQ (amazing ribs). This past year a trip to Lynchburg TN for the Jack saw me stop at Oklahoma Joes in Kansas City (for sure lives up to their reputation) as well as Neely’s bbq (worst bbq experience I have had, food was horrible) and then with a break from the competition we drove to Huntsville AL to eat at Big Bob Gibson’s place (good food, amazing turkey and the best pie ever). Having said all that I understand not everyone has the same tastes, but as far as I am concerned this bbq is as good as any I have had. I think he probably has the best pulled pork I have ever had, and when you get it on a sandwich it is unbeatable. I cringe when I see people that complain about his ribs, part of me wondering if it is because they are used to ribs coming out of a crock pot and doused with sauce. As far as my money goes, there is no better food (not bbq, food) in the twin cities.

  11. Offended 01/30/2011 Reply

    After reading all of the reviews I really wanted to try this place out. They heavily advertise to call ahead to order for take-out so I tried calling for an hour and kept getting a voice mail. So, I decided to drive over there to see if they were open and when I walked in the place was pretty busy – which made me happy. When I mentioned that I had been trying to call for an hour to pre-order my food, the woman snapped at me and said “you can’t expect me to answer the phone when I am this busy”. This caught me off guard and I explained that I had never been there before and apparently wasn’t familiar with the protocol, but I decided to overlook it and I asked how long a take-out order would be. Her response was “just as long as it would take if you were sitting down”. I couldn’t believe how rude she was and I decided that I would never spend a dime in this place since they apparently seem to be doing so well that they don’t want any new business.

  12. charlie 01/31/2011 Reply

    I usually do not comment on postings, but we were just featured on Food Networks Diners, Drive ins and Dives and we have been slammed!!!! Our kitchen is small, we make our food to order, which is why it’s so good, We have had a line at the register (counter service) and up to an hour and a half wait for orders. The message on the phone says we are currently helping customers at the counter please call back later. People call like it’s a radio contest hitting redial over and over. Not saying it was her. She walked in the door and interrupted the customer my wife was helping to let us know we weren’t answering the phone. I sent her an apology and explanation on another sight and was disappointed to see this posted here as well. We have been working around the clock for the last three weeks to try and accommodate the influx of business created by the show and I am just asking for a little understanding. Thanks

  13. Shane Gibson 02/05/2011 Reply

    I have been there once and while it is not terrible, by no means is it as good as Arthur Bryants, Gates or other nationally known bbq joints. I think the Minnesota pallets don’t understand Texas, St.Louis or Memphis bbq. I would go as far as to say that Famous Daves actually tastes better

  14. Tried several times on several different evenings to call and place order. Guess business is booming so well that they no longer need to take orders over phone. Too bad as I’m always looking for an exceptional rib joint. Guess it may be some time before I get to see for myself if this place is all it is being cracked up to be.

  15. Curt Olson 07/05/2013 Reply

    My wife and I went there a while ago…couldn’t get a beer ( beer and BBQ?), so we left.
    Went back July 5 at 6pm, this time they have beer, but are out of ALL ribs!
    We’d like to give it a try once they have the whole meal available at the same time….

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