Review Date: 09/19/16
Visit Dates: (09/08/16)
A longtime barbecue option in the state's capital, Capital Q Smokehouse started out as a truck before settling into a brick and mortar location that's essentially geared for takeout. You order over the counter, selecting from a menu displayed over an open kitchen and a display case that features more than a dozen sides. If you're early or lucky, you can snag one of the handful of stools inside or one of the two picnic tables outside.
Barbecue meats include spare ribs, pulled pork, brisket, burnt ends, smoked chicken and smoked wings. Each meat is offered a few different ways, with different finishing sauces. Fried chicken, fried catfish and chicken fried steak provide smokeless options.
Flexibility is a hallmark here. Ribs, available unsauced ("Memphis style") or sauced ("Kansas City style" glaze or chipotle lime glaze), can be had by the rack, half rack, quarter rack or individual bone. Chicken can be ordered as a half bird, white meat quarter or dark meat quarter. Plates come with cornbread, cole slaw and choice of one other side, with the ability to pay a little extra to upgrade the slaw to something different. Plates don't include multiple meat combos, but with ribs available by the individual bone and the boneless meats available by the pound, it's relatively easy to configure the plate you want.
I hit Capital Q Smokehouse solo for a Thursday lunch while uncharacteristically in the area.
Ribs: Tried as individual bones ($3 each) as add-ons to my
brisket plate, the two extremely lengthy and meaty full cut spares impressed
with their tender texture, legitimate juiciness and crunchy bark even
on a reheat (they're pulled from a cafeteria style warmer and then
placed on the grill for a quick finish before service). I opted for one
with the chili lime sauce and another Memphis style (no sauce), and the
results were successful on both. There's something special about that
sauce, with enough thickness to stick but not so much that it
overwhelms, and the lime flavor similarly grabs the attention without
dominating. I enjoyed both ribs and I'm curious to try them at night
when they might be even better.
Wings: The wings ($13 for a dozen) are smoked, stored in the cafeteria set up, then deep-fried as ordered and tossed in a choice of sauce. Since I ordered them after trying the ribs, I again went with the chipotle lime, which was a little thinner here. The smokiness and strong chickeny flavor still came through. I liked the crispiness and good color, but the interiors were a little too done for my liking, coming up not quite dry but a little too close for comfort. For what it's with, the (almost literal) pool of liquid beneath the wings came in handy for lubrication. Even if they weren't stellar, these wings were still pretty solid, and worth another try.
Brisket: Tried as a plate (brisket, slaw, cornbread, one other
side, $13), the featured meat's generous portion presented only the faintest
hint of a smoke ring but profuse bark that was crunchy in spots. The meat had a very
slight natural moistness to it that became increasingly drier with
successive bites, but that was mitigated with a little sauce. Flavor was
profoundly beefy with a little smoke for a backdrop. The brisket was
ultimately neither tender enough nor moist enough to get excited about,
but for a quick and inexpensive lunch, this would work out okay for that
barbecue fan who likes to add plenty of sauce.
Several sauces are available. Okie is tomatoey like spaghetti sauce, with lots of goodies (oregano, I think, in the lead) chiming in. North Carolina combines tomato and vinegar; South Carolina combines mustard and vinegar; House Q is a combo of Okie and North Carolina. Chipotle Lime, thick on the ribs and thin on the wings, is a tantalizing combo of sweet, hot and sour with enough balance to make it work for anyone not ordinarily a fan of any one of those components.
Cole Slaw: This side, included with every plate, is pretty basic and probably made from a mix. The cabbage was crisp and the condiment was slightly creamy, slightly tangy and slightly flavorful.
Collard Greens: Studded with large chunks of pork, the collards retained the integrity of the leaves, softened just enough by the slightly vinegary broth.
Cornbread: Topped with a large pat of maple butter that melts before you, this cornbread is a feast for the eyes, though the texture of the cornbread itself is on the dry side. Taken with the butter, it's hard to resist.
Service was very friendly and accommodating, offering samples of the pork with the various sauces.
Be sure to bring cash, because they don't accept credit cards.
It also helps to have a backup plan or a tailgate ready for meal consumption, because the limited stools inside and picnic tables outside fill up quickly during peak hours.
The Bottom Line
For some reason I get the feeling that Capital Q Smokehouse is a place whose charms are best appreciated with repeat visits, and it's an important enough place that if I found myself in Albany more often, I'd base this review on multiple ones. That said, the meal I had was certainly closer to decent than good (with the ribs certainly closer to good), but it's the kind of decent that brings a lot of upside. Combined with the pricing and service, that's good enough to warrant a tentative thumbs-up.
Yelp reviews of Capital Q Smokehouse
||'Like' PigTrip BBQ Reviews on Facebook to keep up with all of the reviews and much more content not available on the site.