After earning a loyal following in Prairieville, the pitmasters at Hannah Q Smokehouse have brought their extensive menu of smoked meats to Mid City Baton Rouge.
The barbecue joint built a fan base not by specializing in one style but by doing a little bit of everything — and doing it all well.
Hannah Q’s menu features most of the regional favorites of American barbecue, including Texas brisket, Carolina pulled pork, baby back ribs and smoked chicken. All that meat is paired with tomato, mustard and vinegar sauces in styles that originated in Kansas City, North Carolina and South Carolina, respectively.
Hannah Q began in the parking lot of the Jones Creek-area cafe Jasmines on the Bayou, where the owner of both restaurants, Herb Fong, smoked meat on Friday nights.
I've been a regular customer since the original Hannah Q location opened. Growing up a barbecue lover in Texas, I love brisket. But after moving to Louisiana in 2012, it became difficult to find restaurants that served this cut the way I preferred: a tender, juicy slab with a slightly crispy bark. Hannah Q has been a reliable source for good brisket.
On a Saturday afternoon last month, my stepson and I visited the new Government Street location. We ordered and walked out back to sit beneath the veranda, a cool spot with two wall-mounted televisions, and watched the LSU football game.
I had chosen my regular order, a brisket and sausage plate with two sides ($14). When you ask for brisket at Hannah Q, the clerk always asks, “Moist or lean?” Good lean brisket is extremely rare. It's the realm of the most expert pitmasters. So I always choose moist, and Hannah Q's is reliably good, with a peppery, crisp bark. Full of flavor, it never needs sauce.
The sausage tasted well balanced, with a little spice and an appropriate amount of sodium. It paired well with the tangy, salty South Carolina mustard sauce.
Hannah Q’s assortment of sides shines. Scanning the assemblage of beloved comfort foods, I had a difficult time choosing before selecting cheese grits and coleslaw.
The soupy grits proved a little too rich for me. I enjoyed them, but a few bites more than satisfied. However, the fresh, crisp slaw complemented the fatty brisket and sausage. A nicely brewed cup of sweet tea washed it all down.
My stepson, who hasn't developed a taste for barbecue, chose chicken tenders and fries ($8 for three tenders). While perfectly serviceable, the chicken and fries didn't stand out from other restaurants.
On my next trip, I fought the weekday lunchtime crowd and felt lucky to find a parking spot. I started with an order of boudin egg rolls ($7), an incredibly satisfying appetizer featuring a light, crispy egg roll shell surrounding plump, moist rice and sausage.
I also tried the pulled pork sandwich ($6), which came prepared with pepper jack cheese, slaw and a bit of sweet barbecue sauce.
Pulled pork can often disappoint — it dries out extremely easily and sometimes lacks flavor. But this sandwich delivered an array of tastes, from smoky and bitter to sweet, with juicy pork topped by moist slaw, subtly spicy cheese and just enough sauce. On the side I chose a cup of loaded potato salad full of bacon, cheese and sour cream — another outstanding side dish.
On a third round at Hannah Q, I stuck with barbecue, even though the menu of seafood and Cajun specialties looked inviting. I chose a two-meat plate ($14) with smoked chicken wings and baby back ribs, which were $1 extra.
The wings came expertly smoked and needed no sauce, but I did dip a bit in the thin, acidic vinegar sauce to give it a try. The half rack of ribs came basted with the sweet red Hannah Q sauce, and I easily picked the tender meat off the bone.
While the meat made me salivate, I quickly grew enamored with my side of braised mustard greens, which were peppery and not bitter at all. My other side, a sweet and fluffy corn pudding, grew cold while I focused on the near perfect greens.
Whatever style of barbecue you prefer, Hannah Q Smokehouse can prepare it well enough to satisfy your smoked meat craving. And if barbecue isn’t your thing, go for the sides. I’ll return just to try the smoked Gouda mac and cheese and the sweet potato casserole.
Hannah Q Smokehouse
4808 Government St.
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
(225) 256-0455; hannahqsmokehouse.com
Pros: Brisket, braised mustard greens, ribs
Cons: Parking lot can be crowded