They call it “meat church” and frankly, only holy things are worth waiting two hours in line in the sultry, sticky heat of a Virginia summer. ZZQ has delivered Texas style barbecue for two spring/summer sessions as a popup in the beer garden at Ardent Craft Ales. I’ve watched their instagram feed, but busy summers out of town have kept me away. Until, of course, their final day of meat church. They are closing the popup to create a freestanding joint of their own right next door to Ardent in Scott’s Addition.
Arriving a little after 1pm, it wasn’t until after I had had an American Sour beer care of Ardent and close to 3pm that I got my tray of samples and nestled into a picnic table to eat beside strangers. The line was long and hot, but the smell kept you waiting. Even when a clearly related-to-the-operation teenager came down the line and announced that they were sold out of the beef ribs, you kept waiting. When that same teenager came out an hour late with samples of the burnt ends from the beef brisket, you sure as hell kept waiting. Even when that teenager’s mom and pit mistress came out and said they were sold out of the sliced beef brisket, you kept waiting. Remember, this is church. This is holy.
Chris Fultz, ZZQ pitmaster, grew up outside of Dallas, TX where smoked meats taste much different than our Virginia versions. Living in Virginia as an architect he began mastering that TX flavor he was missing. And master it he did. Along with Alex Graf as pitmistress, these two may be turning VA bbq on it’s sow’s ear.
The brisket is perfection. The flavor is rich, smoky, and smooth. The meat is fatty enough and slow cooked to perfection so that is just melts when it hits your tongue. The smoke is enough to develop the quintessential Texas flavor. It’s the flavor of care and time and really, really good attention to detail. Really, this is smoked brisket perfection. It doesn’t need the barbecue sauce that is offered though that is good, too. This brisket shines alone. I haven’t had brisket like this since my trips to Dallas and Fort Worth years ago.
The pork ribs are a layered flavor concoction that is both sweet and savory. Dry rubbed and loved, these ribs are tender and juicy and really make me wish that the beef version hadn’t sold out.
There is smoked sausage too and it has a hidden kick at the end that makes you go “weeee.” It reminds me a great deal of chorizo and I would like to see it with grits and shrimp one day.
I can’t leave you without mentioning the pickles. They are free sides that you serve up yourself and people, they are pickle perfection. Crisp and mild in their flavor they did not take away from the barbecue, but added to it as a bit of palette cleanse between bites. They also helped me feel like I was eating vegetables because, well… all the meats you see here.
This is by all means not health food, but it’s worth every day of workout/ calorie saving that you do. I’m sorry if you missed this popup, but when their brick and mortar is true to life, I command you- go to church, people, go to church! This is Texas barbecue in Virginia. Amen.