BBQ Jew’s View: The Q Shack

302 E Main Street, Carrboro, NC
BBQ Jew’s Grade: D
Porky Says: “Barbecue tough for a mother to love.”

***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”).

Slick corporate propaganda: not a good sign.

Slick corporate propaganda: a funny sign but not a good sign.

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.

Why is this pork pulled?

Why is this pork pulled? And why doesn't it taste any good?

…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.

5 Responses

  1. Don’t front on the Durham Q-Shack!!

  2. I was just reading your article on the Q Shack and you were right on a few parts.
    The ORIGINAL Q Shack is just that- the very first one that was founded in 2003. The other Q Shacks are completely different in ownership, service, and quality. I have always held firm to the belief that if you cook great food, good poeple will find you. I appreciate you stating that The ORIGINAL Q Shack stands alone.
    Even though I am from Texas, I do like North Carolina BBQ. I have never said I did not like NC BBQ infact I feel just about the opposite. Having said that, The ORIGINAL Q Shack has never claimed to be a North Carolina BBQ restaurant. I do appreciate the style but do have a Texas flaire to my cooking.
    I take great pride in my restaurant and hope the next time you have guest come into town you bring them to the ORIGINAL.

  3. @ Dan, thanks for your comments and I made a revision to the Q Shack review so as not to suggest you dislike NC ‘cue. Apologies for any mistatement on my part in the original post. You know how us Carolinians get a little testy around Texans…

  4. Well, I don’t know if it was your review, but the Carrboro Q-Shack is closed. FWIW, I thought it wasn’t bad, but not great. That location has had a Pizza Hut (open for years, finally folded), a Bandido’s (lasted about a year) , a New Orleans/Cajun eatery (less than a year?) , and the Q-Shack (folded, 6 months maybe) I’m not sure if the rent is too high or parking is the issue, but I wouldn’t open another restaurant there! Seems doomed to fail.

  5. Chris, thanks for the comment. I edited the post to make it clear this location is closed. You are right, that location seems cursed, though maybe a good restaurant would change things…

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