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.
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.
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.
BBQ in Champlin
180 Miller Rd
Champlin, MN 55316
OWNER/CHEF: Charles “Charlie” Johnson
Tue-Thu 11am-2pm 4-8pm
ENTREE RANGE: $6-17