On the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, we made our final major pre-baby road trip to Richmond, where ZZQ is making destination-worthy Texas barbecue.
ZZQ has been on our radar for a while, as they’ve been receiving a lot of great press (Texas Monthly, Washington Post). But after our visit, we can’t help but add to the chorus of praise with our own post about their incredible barbecue and their warm hospitality.
We arrived at 10:30am, prior to the 11:00am opening. This allowed us to be first in line, a good idea since the line got very long very quickly. I was excited to eat barbecue again, so I was wearing my Terry Black’s Barbecue shirt. ZZQ is a meat-market style barbecue joint, similar to Terry Black’s in Austin. When you enter, you order your meats at the counter and the staff slices them right in front of you. It may not be the most efficient system, but (in my opinion) it’s the most fun and interactive experience for the customer since you get to chat with the staff and you might end up ordering more meat than you expected.
The owners of ZZQ are Alex Fultz and Chris Graf. Chris was born in Austin and grew up outside of Dallas, while Alex is from the Richmond area. Both architects, they built and designed ZZQ from the ground up, and it looks incredible. There’s a large indoor (air conditioned) seating area as well as a smaller outdoor patio area, complete with picnic tables. The place even has a full bar with TVs. Honestly, even if they run out of barbecue it’s still a great place to watch a game.
One of the more notable interior features is a neon sign, spelled out in shapes, that says “Texas & Orange = Heart.” “Texas” represents where Chris is from and “Orange” is Alex’s nickname due to her unique hair color.
When we got to the counter, they were just taking the briskets out of the wraps. We ordered a pound of brisket, ½ pound of pork ribs and ¼ pound pulled pork. Along the way, each employee commented on my Terry Black’s shirt. The brisket had perfectly rendered fat – this is exactly what Texas brisket is supposed to look and taste like. We ate some brisket on its own and some on white bread with pickles and onions, just like we did on a picnic table in the wind and cold at Micklethwait in East Austin.
The glistening pork ribs surprised us when we first saw them, because to us it looked like they were covered in sauce. But in truth, it was just a layer of glaze that was applied during the cooking process. The glaze ended up being the key to our favorite barbecue pork ribs, both inside and outside of Texas. The initial bite gave a hint of sweetness, but it immediately subsided and turned into smoky, meaty goodness.
As we ate, Chris came over to talk with us. He asked about our favorite barbecue joint (Tejas Chocolate) and he told us that his favorites were 2M, Valentina’s Tex-Mex and Killen’s. Chris graciously offered us a tour of the smokehouse. We got to see the three Austin Smokeworks smokers, along with the Moberg smoker at that was out on the patio. That one is one for events and catering.
We couldn’t leave ZZQ without some merch, and of course we got a onesie for the baby. On our way out, we talked with Alex for a while. Her parting words to us: “Make sure you bring the baby next time!”
Paul and Marnay: Pork ribs
ZZQ: 3201 W Moore Street, Richmond, VA 23230
Transit: We have taken Amtrak to Richmond many times in the past, but for this trip we rented a ZipCar