The pitmaster at Suzy Q's BBQ, Jim Rood, uses a professional-grade, gas-fired Ole Hickory convection smoker, complemented with hickory, apple or pecan wood, that he runs around 225 degrees. It's not exactly a blue-collar brick pit behind some lean-to in central Texas, and fans of thick smoke rings and dark-brown crusty bark will probably be a little disappointed, as charcoal works better to produce those effects. But the Ole Hickory grants more control and predictability, both of which Rood and his family, including his 23-year-old son and partner James, are trying to lock down as first-time restaurant owners.
But for a barbecue restaurant that keeps regular hours and doesn't just close when it runs out, the predictability, in particular, still needs work. Multiple reviewers on Yelp talked about not being able to order ribs because they weren't finished smoking, and I experienced the same thing.
"There will be some mornings where we'll sell five racks of ribs, and we'll have to throw more in the smoker for dinner because we won't have enough if we don't do that," Jim says. "It all just depends. We're still getting a feel for how much to order and how much to buy."
That doesn't stop their St. Louis-style spareribs, which are thrown on the fire around 8 a.m., from offering mildly seasoned, meaty bites that also pull cleanly from the bone in tender, smoky chunks. A plate of four with two sides will cost you $10, while you can also do a three-meat plate, with two sides, for $16.75. That feels a little pricey, but the sides are big and legit: The skin-on potato salad comes off creamy with a dill snap; the fantastically gloppy cowboy beans are powered by brown sugar and green pepper; and if the coleslaw isn't exactly packed with flavor, it's well-drained and crisp.
Generally, there's a love of the genre and an appreciation for its variations, further revealed in the five house sauces. Four are tomato-based, the sweet-heat winning my heart, while a fifth exhibits the madness of Carolina through an ingredient list that contains only two things: apple-cider vinegar and red-pepper flakes.
As for meat, I'm always hoping for the obscene. I want glistening brisket jiggly with fat; steaming mounds of bark-flecked pork; and long tubes of peppery sausage, the natural color smoked into a rusty ruby red. Some of that's here — the moist pulled pork was routinely excellent, and you get a lot of it; the sausage, from Sara's Sausage in Palmer Lake, always registered strong and smoky, with black-pepper and fennel flavors — and some is not, like how the brisket can be smoky and dry one day, and moist and pot-roast-y the next.
Still, it all tastes good covered in sauce, especially the brisket sandwich ($6.75). Or you can really get ridiculous and order Da Oinker ($8.50), a hot dog buried under shredded pork, jalapeños, barbecue sauce and neon-yellow nacho cheese; and if that makes you quail, then six fresh jalapeño-cheddar hush puppies ($5.50) are for you. Finish the whole thing off with a peanut-butter, chocolate crisped-rice treat called an Avs Bar ($2).
And that's the thing about the genre, why it's perfect: If you don't like one thing, then you can probably find something else delicious sitting right next to it. And in Manitou Springs, in the old Coquette's Bistro and Bakery, you'll find it at Suzy Q's BBQ.