MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Q Fanatic is his restaurant, and it's also the perfect description of chef and owner Charlie Johnson: he is a fanatic.
Johnson spends a lot of time by the smoker, in both his year-old South Minneapolis restaurant, and his ten-year-old spot in the northern suburb of Champlin.
"We jumped into that with $40,000 and we made a go of it," he said.
Word spread quickly about the suburban restaurant nestled into a strip mall along Highway 169. Since Q Fanatic opened, Charlie's been on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and named best barbeque in Minnesota by WCCO viewers.
Charlie grew up on a farm in central Minnesota, and he said despite our lack of a barbeque culture, he learned a lot about barbeque there.
"Everything's fresh. I grew up with a huge garden, mom canned, made BBQ sauce crowing up. We had a huge tomato patch," he said.
But mom's barbeque is nothing like what Charlie's doing now.
"My mom made Scandinavian ribs, boiled all the love out of them and put sauce on it to put some flavor back it," he laughed.
There's nothing but love at the barbeque in Q Fanatic. Charlie spent his adult life cooking in hotel restaurants for work, but cooking barbeque for fun.
"The cooking we do here is how they cooked meats 100 years ago," he said.
And he's traveled the country, tasting barbeque and learning from the best. Charlie's Ribs are inspired by the best barbeque in Texas or the Carolinas. He teaches his team to judge meat not solely by cooking time or by temperature, but by touch and feel.
"Every brisket is different, every cow is different, every piece of meat," he said.
He's been perfecting his now legendary espresso barbeque sauce 30 years ago!
"Every year I'd bottle the espresso sauce. I was working as a chef at a country club," he said.
He'd put it on pizza, chicken, everything.
Now, Q Fanatic has more than a dozen sauces, including a seasonal sauce with apples, bacon, and cream. The truth is, the ultimate compliment is having beautifully smoked meats that stand alone.
"That's the ultimate goal. To have meat that's good enough to eat without the sauce," he said.
With more barbeque spots opening, Charlie's hired a pit master who's worked in Austin, Texas. They're doing turkey. Seeing if people want grass fed brisket. Always striving to be the best.
"My goal is always to be the standard. To try to be the standard in twin cities barbeque if possible," he said.
180 Miller Rd.
Champlin, MN 55316
6009 Nicollet Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55419
Recipe: Apple Cream Sauce
1 lb thick sliced bacon, cut ¼ inch
2 large yellow onions cut French onion soup style
4 apples, ¼'d and cut in ¼ inch slices
1 qt heavy cream
8 to 10 sage leaves, chiffonade or 1 tbsp dried
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
Sauté bacon and onions until they're lightly caramelized add remaining ingredients and reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce reaches nappe (heavy oil consistency)
This sauce goes well with grilled or smoked chicken breast, pork loin or pork tenderloin. Do not overcook these meats!! Not all cuts should be cooked for long periods as some will dry out. Cook chicken to 165 and pork loin and tenderloin to 150. Always let your meat rest for at least 5 to 10 minutes before cutting and longer for bigger cuts.
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