What it is: Right off the freeway on the 73rd/Eighth Street exit in West Des Moines, the spot where the Q Barbeque Restaurant & Bar just opened has housed at least a couple of previous restaurants, including an Italian eatery and a Mexican food joint. This go ‘round, the three owners of the Q have taken a new approach, hoping to win over the appetites of many with one of the city's most popular cuisine types.
The Q, however, stands out from Des Moines' sea of barbeque joints due to its sophisticated yet non-stuffy atmosphere. Although the Q prides itself in serving regional barbeque, there aren’t red-and-white-checkered napkins or football team paraphernalia shoving the “you’re at home” concept down your throat. Instead, the décor consists of caramel-colored walls with black accents, three flat TV screens featuring sports, and vibrant framed prints of famous jazz musicians strategically hung on the walls. The furnishings seem minimal, but the atmosphere gives you the sense that a lot of thought went into the Q. It has character, personality.
A few tables are located on the floor near a stone fireplace, but the Q’s seating is made up largely of booths with high walls that encourage a sense of privacy and intimacy. The bar balances out the space, smack-dab in the middle of the two main dining areas.
What we tried: It was cold and rainy outside when we went into the Q on a Thursday night. Some warm, hearty food was a must, so my guest and I chose from the features portion of the menu — skipping the several salads and traditional barbeque sandwiches. (Although I must admit, a black angus hot dog with chili sounded almost too good to pass up.) I ordered a half slab of loin back ribs and chose sweet potato fries and chili as my sides ($12.95). My guest went with a quarter order of white hickory smoked chicken with au gratin potatoes and beans ($8.95). To my delight, jalapeño corn bread came with each meal. (I get some serious cravings for the sweet stuff when someone mentions the word “barbeque.”)
Our food was served promptly in metal trays lined with wax paper. It was an intimidating amount of food, and it was good. Real good. My ribs fell off the bone but were still juicy. I tried all four barbeque sauces on our table (mustard, Carolina, original and spicy), ultimately opting for original as my sauce of choice. I don’t know if it was the yucky weather or its award-winning status, but the chili hit the spot.
My guest’s meal was equally tasty, maybe moreso. The Q gets its chickens from Iowa’s northern border and slow smokes them for a large part of the day. Its meticulous preparation was apparent in every bite. The cornbread was interesting — it was simultaneously sweet and spicy and went beautifully with butter (at this point, why not?). We washed our grub down with Sam Adams Oktoberfest, one of the nine beers on tap. It was beautiful.
Bob Conley, one of the Q’s owners, swung by each table mid-meal to hear people’s reactions and thank them for being there. There weren’t very many diners, and our waiter told us things had been a little slow since it opened about a month and a half ago. But we overheard one guest say, “It was great the first time, and it was great the second time.” Returning patronage is always a positive sign.
When he made it to our table, we asked Conley about the chili (it won the 1991 Illinois State Chili Cook Off) and a little about opening the restaurant.
“I’ve opened 45 restaurants in the past 35 years, and I think we got it right this time,” Conley said. We had to agree.
Why you should go: Delicious food, a chill atmosphere, all at a great price which most likely will result in leftovers galore. We see going to the Q on game days in our future; Sundays, get $3 Bloody Marys, $2.50 pints and $5 buckets of chili. The Q also offers a “quick meals” menu for some serious takeout.
What: The Q
Where: 1250 Eighth St., West Des Moines
Phone: (515) 224-7440
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Saturday; food service ends at 10 p.m.