Another most anticipated Richmond restaurant opening of 2018 can be checked off. At long last ZZQ has a permanent home.
ZZQ started years ago when Chris Fultz and Alex Graf began hosting barbecues in their back yard to introduce friends to their passion for Texas-style smoked beef brisket and other meats. Several New Year’s Days ago, I had the privilege of being invited to one of these events—we brought some libations to share and partook in a delightful meat feast. What stuck with me from that first taste of ZZQ was the positive vibe—Alex and Chris were genuinely passionate about what they were doing and sharing it with whoever happened to join their party. Several years of food trucking it and construction later and I was pleased to see this vibe still reigned supreme at the brick-and-mortar establishment.
How ZZQ Works
When you enter ZZQ, first head to the far end of the restaurant and get in line. The food menu is on the wall—tape will be placed over any menu items that have already sold out for the day—and you order as you move along the dangerously enticing stretch of meat and sides. First you select your meat. As stated, Texas-style brisket is where ZZQ’s fame began, but on my visit I went a different route and tasted the sausage, both the special spicy habanero Fontina with pork and beef and the signature Beef Hot Guts are created by SausageCraft and slow-smoked to perfection. Your choice of protein will be freshly sliced or piled onto a bun and loaded onto an aluminum tray that’s reminiscent of Texas barbecue joints.
While dining, I snagged a taste of my friend’s pulled pork sandwich—the pork was tender and flavorful with the perfect kiss of smoke that wasn’t overpowering. If you’re feeling extra feisty, try the Tres Hombres sandwich with a combination of brisket, pulled pork and sausage topped with pickled red onions.
Maybe it was opening weekend, but as I moved through the line, I noticed that everyone working was happy, chatty, and excited about the food they were serving. Have a question? They were excited and ready to answer it. Just love meat so much you don’t know what to order? They might even give you a little sample or two to help you decide.
Sides and Dessert
After you select your meat, you’ll get your choice of sides. My favorite of the day was the jalapeno mac and cheese—oh so creamy and cheesy with the perfect tangy zip of jalapeno.
My friends were singing the praises of the Terlingua Cole Slaw, and the Buttermilk Potato Salad was the perfect option to quell any lingering burn from extra spice on your ‘cue. Oh, and when you are offered pickles, just say yes.
You also don’t want to miss the day’s dessert. I couldn’t resist the Rhubarb Crumble, which Alex told me she made herself as I was checking out. This dessert was a sweet, tart combination of strawberries and rhubarb—a perfect, classic dish that isn’t served often enough.
Drinks at ZZQ
If you want a soft drink, lemonade or iced tea, you order it when you buy your food. If you want a more adult libation, you can order it at the bar or at your table when you sit down to eat. Derek Salerno, beverage director and assistant general manager of Shagbark, designed the cocktail menu for ZZQ and you’ll find selections that go far beyond your typical BBQ joint. Just so I could inform you, my dear readers, I encouraged my friends to order several so I could sample them all.
The ZZBuck is an entirely too easy to guzzle combination of habanero, poblano ginger beer and lime that you can add a kick to with your choice of tequila, vodka, bourbon or mezcal (we chose bourbon). The Daiquiri Al Pastor is a tart-and-smoky combination of smoked-pork-washed, achiote-infused white rum, pineapple gomme and lime. I was particularly impressed with the balance this drink achieved—sometimes cocktails that feature smoky, peppery spices end up as overpowering and heavy—this one managed to be balanced, light and tart with just a hint of smoky barbecue flavors, making it a lovely contrast to the heavier flavors of my meal.
The Man Down is a richer take on an Old Fashioned with mezcal, Carpano Antica, Aperol, and grapefruit-epazote bitters. And, the Man Up! is a dangerously drinkable riff on a Manhattan featuring bourbon, Amaro Averna, amontillado sherry, Carpano Antica, and Angostura bitters.
The inside is spacious with plenty of tables for chowing down as well as a bar that would fit just as nicely in a trendy downtown restaurant as it does in a relaxed Scott’s Addition barbecue joint. The combination of wood and metal tones creates a modern-friendly vibe that feels welcoming, homey, but also fresh and contemporary. Fultz’s second profession as an architect is evident in the flow and design of the dining room. There’s also a spacious patio that I’m sure will be packed as soon as temperatures stabilize. For now, hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday or until the meat sells out.