Open in late 2006, the Q Smokehouse is a counter service operation near downtown Methuen that serves pizza and barbecue. Although it’s primarily geared for take-out (and their website says “take-out only”), they do have two small tables near the door.
The barbecue menu is fairly simple: one kind of rib (St Louis), pulled pork, brisket, pulled chicken, smoked chicken and smoked sausage. You can order ribs by the rack or half rack, chicken by the quarter or half, and other meats by the pound or half pound. Combinations are available in a few pre-set permutations of three meats, with baked beans and cole slaw.
Q Smokehouse has a lengthier appetizer roster that include fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings, jalapeño poppers, fried pickles, Buffalo wings, Buffalo tenders, pulled chicken quesadilla, mozzarella sticks and ”fowl balls”—bacon-wrapped balls of chicken that are smoked and then deep fried.
On a weekday lunch visit I started with an order of fried pickles, which I ate outside while studying the take-out menu. Housed in a 1950’s style container, the pickles were golden spears with a slight jalapeño kick and a thick, crunchy batter. I liked the mildly spicy dipping sauce too.
For the main event I tried combo platter #3 with ribs, chicken and pulled pork. I asked for the sauce on the side, but found a heavy dose of sauce over all of the meats when I opened my take-out container. The ribs were soggy under all the sauce, a neutral combination of sweet and tangy that didn’t stray too far in either direction. The ribs did have a good flavor, with noticeable smoke, but they didn’t taste all that fresh. I’m guessing they were reheated from the night before. The pulled pork was the best looking item on the plate, with some nice chunks and a little bark. Sticking my fork into the meat, I could tell that the texture was right on: tender with a little bit of chew. The pork had a very nice flavor with an even more prominent smoke component than the ribs, and the sauce didn’t overpower it. Under the wilted skin, the breast quarter chicken had moist, tender meat. The chicken was less smoky than the ribs and pork, but the flavor was pretty good.
The sides were average. Baked beans were a competent New England style with a flavor fairly similar to the barbecue sauce. The cole slaw was simple but good. Q Smokehouse has other sides (chili, potato salad, green beans, mac and cheese) that can be ordered separately.
The bottom line: This is real barbecue that's got some serious smoke. I need to try the meats (including brisket) at night and unsauced to get a true read on Q Smokehouse. For now, my take is that the pulled pork is very good and everything else is pretty good with the potential to be better. I'll try them again and see if that potential is fulfilled.