Capital Q
[from June 1998 issue]

Near the heart of Chinatown operates a dandy new barbecue place with the unlikely name of Capital Q, and it features Texas-style barbecuing so delicious and soul-satisfying that it promises to change the face of local ribberies. Even reveling in the joys of its hot, dripping ribs and overstuffed potatoes, you may still wonder why a Texas-style restaurant--well, eatery--is so close to Peking duck and Chinese stir-fries.

Part of the answer must lie with the coming of the arena and the associated local gentrification. After all, as the crowd of German tourists downing ribs recently confirmed, this is a hot area of town. And surely, once the word is out, one of the main att ractions will be Capital Q.

Its ribs are sensational, though at $10.50 for half a rack, not any bargain. But for such meaty ribs, you won't mind paying almost top dollar. This is macho meat, slightly charred, trickling with juices, doused with a mild or hot sauce (your choice, and y ou can kick up the heat even more by using some of the commercial bottled pepper preparations on hand), and served with two sides, enough for any he-man and probably enough to share for two mere mortals. We fussed over which sides: mashed potatoes, collar d greens, potato salad, coleslaw, rice, pork and beans, smoked home fries?

To solve the dilemma, we simply ordered half a barbecued chicken as well, lusciously blackened and juicy with an enticing smoky flavor and aroma. That way we had it all, or nearly so. The mashed potatoes, skin and all, are chunky yet smooth, and with just a hint of buttery flavor. The greens are not boiled until they disintegrate so they have both texture and flavor, the flavor imparted by the turkey and mushroom stock. Coleslaw and potato salad--these are hard to destroy, and Capital Q's are satisfying, though not particularly outstanding.

To add to the gluttony, we tacked on to the order one of their monster smoked, baked potatoes stuffed with pulled chicken, a rather hedonistic splurge for potato eaters. Service is at a rear counter, where the food is displayed and where anyone with an ap petite is bound to order too much--a clever marketing ploy, because everything smells and looks tantalizingly good. Except the grilled Portobello mushrooms--these, alas, were blackened and misshapen, and somewhat hard to identify.

On the other hand, you could order around the mushrooms, and try out one of the eatery's sandwiches or tacos, though no one thought of that at the time. You can also select their Chinese Cowboy Platter, a choice of meat served over rice--but perhaps that is just a joke. If you are a serious ribs person, the only real option here is the ribs. They are first class, and some of the best in town. A spokesperson for the restaurant says the beef brisket is pretty terrific too, but hey--just cut to the ribs and enjoy.

If you are a Southerner--or Texan, or even child--at heart, save room for their homestyle banana pudding, which comes as a large scoop of vanilla wafers, creamy vanilla pudding, and sliced bananas. That's pure comfort food. The kitchen had run out of peca n pie and we didn't see any apple crisp on hand, two of the other dessert choices. The brownies looked ordinary, and probably not worth the calories.

Thirsty? Management quite sensibly is well-stocked with Texan and Mexican beer, Tequila and whiskey, plus sweet Texas tea. And when you stagger out to the street, you could take a tour of Chinatown and maybe stop in somewhere for a bowl of hot and sour so up.

By the way, this is definitely a casual, shirt-sleeves place: Don't plan on this as a fancy after-the-game destination, because it isn't. Just stroll in from the street and pig out.

Capital Q, 707 H St. (202) 347-TEXN; e-mail, [email protected] Hours: Mon.-Thu., 11am-9pm; Fri., 11am-10pm; Sat., 11:30am-10pm; Sun. (except summertime, when closed), noon-6pm. Credit cards: Amex, MC, Visa. Catering also.

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