***NOTE: This Q-Shack location is now out of business.***
Sunday Morning Coming Down
Probably every barbecue lover has been faced with this dilemma: It’s Sunday and the hankering for barbecue strikes, but all the good local joints are closed. Do you a) go against your primal instinct to hunt ‘cue and eat something else, b) go to a second rate joint to get your fix, or c) drive the 1.5 hours required to reach a good joint open on Sundays? Unfortunately, I chose option b) a couple weeks ago and got just what I deserved from the Q Shack, a lousy meal.
My wife, Mrs. LeSwine, and I had a friend in town and she wanted to eat some ‘cue before heading home the next morning. Instead of just explaining that the few good joints in the Triangle are closed Sundays, we decided to try out the Carrboro Q Shack (complete with its too-clever motto, “BBQ Tender as a Mother’s Love”).
Just Don’t Order The Pork…
I’ve eaten at Durham’s Original Q Shack several times and have always been fine with their brisket and other non-NC ‘cue offerings, although I’ve never been wowed. The Carrboro Q Shack is part of a small regional chain with locations in Raleigh’s suburban-trendy North Hills and in Charlotte, as well as limited-menu locations on Duke and UNC’s campus and elsewhere, and is under completely separate ownership from Durham’s Original Q Shack. The menus are close to identical but Durham seems to be doing things better, at least judging from my visits. Still, even if you visit Durham’s Original Q Shack I suggest you steer clear of the NC ‘cue and stick to the other stuff. The owner of the Durham location has Texas roots and it shows in the difference between his solid preparation of brisket and other Texas dishes compared to the mediocre NC ‘cue. Anyway, I figured the Carrboro location would be at least as good as Durham. I was wrong.
I ordered the “pulled pork,” which appears to be an attempt at making NC barbecue. However, as readers of this site may recognize, the phrase “pulled pork” is a dead giveaway that these people wouldn’t know pit-cooked NC barbecue (which is chopped, not pulled) from a hole in the ground. The pork was simply not good–it was bland, inconsistently cooked and watery as if from sitting on a steam table. The mediocre pseudo-Lexington style dip at the table could not possibly add enough flavor to overcome the bad swine. Alas, I resorted to squirting on a dollop of the pretty good Texas-style sauce available at the table. This is usually a cardinal sin, but the pork needed a Texas size cover-up.
…Or Anything Else
Was the rest of the menu much better? Well, it wouldn’t matter if it was, not for this website or this review. But if you’re curious, no. According to their website, “the Q Shack is the one place where North Carolinians, Texans and even Mid-Westerners feel right at home with versions of their down home favorites.” Well, our party had two midwesterners and two North Carolinians and none of us enjoyed our meal.
Our visitor from the midwest said, and I quote, “I’ve had better brisket in Wisconsin.” Ouch. The brisket was overdone on the dry side and not very tender. The mac and cheese was good, with some spice to it. The slaw looked good, what with the shredded purple cabbage and carrot involved, but was just average. And the collards, usually a safe bet, were bitter from being undercooked and featured several whole unchopped collard leaves. Sloppy kitchen prep. The hush puppies were a welcome respite, though they were overdone and overgreasy.
So much for Sunday barbecue in the Triangle.