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Quandary With a Capital Q

July 29, 2009

I love Capital Q.  Love it.  I love it to pieces.  It is one of my favorite places to eat in the area.  I would put it up against my favorite BBQ places all over the country.  It is a central part of the Albany food tour.  If you have yet to eat there, I pity you for all those missed meals that you will never be able to recover.

And I am not one to gush.

This place is serious.  The pit master behind the operation reportedly grew up in Okalahoma.  But the barbecue he serves is a tour of classics from the appropriate regions.  There is Carolina pulled pork, both northern and southern.  He makes a mean Texas style brisket.  The ribs are in the spirit of Memphis.  But if you like he will sauce the ribs and pork in a sweet okie sauce that presumably brings him back to his roots.  I actually hate the okie sauce, but I do understand there are people who like their food sweet.  Blech.

In the true spirit of barbecue there are no plates, because really this is more of a joint than a restaurant.  Yes, there may be a few good barbecue restaurants, places where you sit down at a table and have food served to you.  However, I tend to eye most of those places with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Capital Q has six stools along a counter in front of a window overlooking the street.  And if the weather is nice there are a couple of picnic tables on the sidewalk.  This has never been a problem for me, because getting one of their pulled pork sandwiches with a side of meat is something that I like to enjoy all by myself.  It allows me to focus my full attention on the food, and not get distracted by idle chitchat with a friend.

“Did you say side of meat?”
Yes, yes I did.  And it’s brilliant.  You can order one rib or a slice of brisket.  That is in addition to their chili, which is meaty and delicious, but commonly available as a side elsewhere.

But let’s talk about the meat.

I get the ribs dry.  The sauce covers up the flavor of the smoke and obscures the delicacy of the pork.  Let me say this once, and I’ll say it loudly for those in the cheap seats, IF THE MEAT FALLS OFF THE BONE, THE RIBS ARE OVERCOOKED.  I hear “fall off the bone tender” so many times it drives me batty.  Yes, when you bite the meat from the bone, the bone should come out clean.  But those are two very different things.  Capital Q does it right.  The fat is well rendered, the meat is both tender but with a nice bite, and the bone comes out clean.  Well done, sir.

The brisket is fantastic.  It is one of the best specimens of barbecued brisket I have sampled.  It has that remarkable quality that I prize in the form: the beef fat breaks down into a rich buttery delight that I can’t help but devour.  It becomes meltingly tender.  Every time I see any of that precious fat being trimmed off the brisket and discarded, it kills a little piece of me inside.  Again, I take it without sauce.

I brought a whole brisket to a family dinner in Connecticut.  When I picked it up from Capital Q, it was well wrapped, and the pit master presented it to me himself.  He told me, “Right now, this brisket is perfect.  It just goes downhill from here.”  Maybe it did and maybe it didn’t, but it was the hit of the dinner.

While these offerings are great, given that their web address is eatmypork.com, Capital Q is clearly focused on one thing. And their pulled pork is as close to the real deal as one can expect outside of the Carolinas.

Their North Carolina pork is in a spicy vinegar sauce with tomato and the South Carolina pork is tossed with a spicy vinegar mustard sauce.  Inconceivably, the most popular pork they sell is the sweet and sticky okie pig, followed by the NC, with the SC bringing up the rear.  Or at least that was the case in the beginning.

But their mustard sauce is so good, I try to leave with as many extra to-go cups of the stuff as I can reasonably get away with.

Still, the taste of the meat comes through, and it’s smoky with well-rendered fat.  So it’s rich but it would be hard to call fatty.  And when the whole thing is put together on a plain white bun with crisp slaw and a spicy homemade pickle, it’s a proper Carolina pulled pork sandwich in the middle of Albany.  Who woulda thunk?

So what’s the Quandary?

Soon after discovering Capital Q my doctor tells me I need to lay off the fatty meats.  It’s devastating, isn’t it?  So I have needed to reinvent myself, much like Cookie Monster, and acknowledge that barbecue is a “sometimes food.”

But I tell you, the next time I get a good check-up, I’m heading straight over to Capital Q to celebrate with a Southern Carolina pork sandwich, one rib (hopefully an end piece) and a slice of fatty brisket.

[Apparently though this place is not for everyone.]

10 Comments leave one →
  1. brownie permalink
    July 29, 2009 10:40 am

    Delicious post. I’m off to W’s today for some ribs and chicken.

  2. July 29, 2009 11:00 am

    I’m all about the SoCa kind too. I HATE overly sweet bbq. In fact, I don’t like most sweet glazes or sauces on meat in general. Gross.

  3. Jennifer permalink
    July 29, 2009 11:44 am

    Delectable review!

    Now. I think I know what meat I will get but do you have any sides you would recommend? If I am going to pig out on stuff that’s bad for me, I like it to come with something starchy.

  4. July 29, 2009 12:24 pm

    They are set up each Wednesday at the Farmer’s Market on the State Plaza in downtown Albany.

  5. Kate M. permalink
    July 29, 2009 1:09 pm

    Is it BBQ in general or our fickleness post-SF, but there is a BBQ place here (Slows in Detroit) that is also my favorite restaurant in the area. It may be a little more upscale than Capital Qs (in that it is a sit down restaurant) but it is really good. I need to sample more of the menu, b/c I usually go with “The Reason”…which is the pulled pork sandwich, served on Texas toast w/ cole slaw and pickles. All sauces are on the side….but I go w/ a mix of the spicy and the N. Carolina style. It’s divine. I have a feeling that b/c they named the sandwich, you might be skeptical, but I am telling you I am craving it now…and I ate it as recently as Sunday. BBQ is now in line w/ bacon for the reasons I am not a vegetarian.

  6. July 29, 2009 6:27 pm

    I love them so much.

    So, so much.

  7. Joanna permalink
    July 29, 2009 7:49 pm

    Ever been to the Pig Pit in Troy?

  8. phairhead permalink
    July 29, 2009 8:02 pm

    hey joanna! they are moving the Pig Pit from their Cohoes location to somewhere down 787. not that i’ve ever eaten there. my boyfriend makes the most kick ass barbeque!

  9. July 30, 2009 7:56 am

    The brisket there really is amazing.

  10. Joanna permalink
    July 31, 2009 7:47 am

    K8, you’re right. The brisket there is some of the best I’ve ever had.

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