Jason Ganahl opened GQue Championship BBQ in Westminster in November 2015. Since then, he has won the hearts of guests who continue to return to his smoked meats emporium week after week. A list of Ganahl's competition accomplishments is posted on his website. In honor of Barbecue Week, Eater asked this meat man to share the story of his restaurant in a Q&A. Here it is:
What is GQue and how did it come about? We are Colorado's only championship barbecue restaurant featuring barbecue that has won professional contests throughout the country. Every day, we prepare all of our food for same-day service and when the allotment is gone, well it is gone.
How did you arrive to opening a restaurant? I enjoy serving others — having a restaurant allows me to do that every day. I had been told by many people smarter than me that opening a restaurant would be one of the toughest things to do. Always being one to try new things and take on challenges it felt like the right thing to do at the time. The best way to learn how to do anything is to actually do it.
Who is your clientele? Our clientele is very diverse. We have construction workers sitting right next to guys in suits at lunch. We have high school kids that come in during their lunch break and seniors eating dinner at 4 p.m. We have had Super Bowl champs dine in as well as little league champs.
How did you choose your location? I have three little kids so needed somewhere close to where I live, which is Superior. I also had to find a landlord willing to rent to a first time operator. So we ended up in Westminster in our spot.
Will there ever be a second one? We still have a lot of work to do on the first one, being open 6 months and being our first restaurant. We learn how to run a better restaurant each day we are open. It still seems like it's a minor miracle each day just getting the food ready for service the way we want it. We still have several improvements to make. Perhaps once we get it all figured out and a good opportunity is in front of us we would look at it.
What's your philosophy on barbecue? Barbecue is fun! What's there not to like about a slow smoked piece of meat that's perfectly cooked? Because barbecue tastes so good people get very loyal to what they like; it's usually what they grew up on. I see people get all worked up discussing barbecue and what it should be rather than appreciating different types and styles. People will argue over it like they do their favorite politicians or sports teams. I don't get too worked up over a particular type or style, I am always trying new things and looking for ways to improve while having fun and learning along the way.
What about sides? One of the common complaints about barbecue places is their sides are no good. We're recognizing that and not wanting to fall into that category. We spent a lot of time developing the sides as they are important to us to in order to have a memorable meal. We make all of our sides same day and think there is something unique about each one.
How did you choose your smoker? I'm from Missouri and my smoker is made in Missouri. It's what I'm familiar with and it can handle the volume we do — it's an Ol Hickory that we call Duane. We are in the process of getting a second one.
Why is the wood you use unique? Can't make good barbecue unless you have a good fire. We are picky about the wood we use. We currently have it trucked in from eastern Kansas. It's all pesticide-free and I think that comes across when tasting it.
Where do you source your meat from? It comes from a few different places; we're very picky about our purveyors. For instance, we insist on cooking only USDA Prime beef for our brisket. The top 3% of cattle in America earn a prime rating, the rating is based on the marbling of the cow. We recently bought 15,000 pounds of prime brisket and are aging it. We're excited to be able to soon serve 30-day aged prime hickory-smoked brisket.
How do you describe your finished product and what is the best thing you serve?We don't sauce any of our meat; we believe you should taste whatever the meat is your tasting first and foremost. For example, if you're eating brisket, beef should be the first and most prominent thing you taste, then in the background at some point you should notice smoke and some seasoning. Then, if you prefer a saucy flavor to your barbecue, you can add as little or as much as you like.
What is the best thing you serve? My opinion changes all time. We sell a ton of brisket, ribs, and pork, however people tell us all the time our turkey is the best they have ever had. Our wings are the one item we run out of the most and every 3rd or 4th order has sausage on it so I don't know if there is one thing I can say is the best. I did have a Meltdown sandwich for lunch the other day and thought man, there may be a better tasting brisket sandwich out there somewhere but I just have not had it yet.
Outside of what you make, what is best barbecue you've ever had? I have had so much barbecue that it's hard to remember what was the best I have ever had. I remember being in my early 20s and eating it every other day. I like things that I have not had in a while. For instance, right now, I enjoy chicken cooked with a light charcoal flavor to it.