03/01/2012 - By Gayle Irwin
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Located a short distance from the I-25 interchange with Wyoming Boulevard in Evansville, HQ Southern BBQ serves a unique niche amidst the myriad of area dining choices.
Owner Doug Nicol knows hickory smoked southern style barbecue, and he knows food. Raised near Chattanooga, Tennessee where "there's a barbecue place on nearly every corner", Nicol came to Wyoming as a manager for the Outback Restaurant. There he met Gabe Phillips. After a few years, with Nicol's desire to open his own restaurant, the two became partners and launched HQ BBQ .
"I felt there was a spot to fill – there's not a lot to choose from out here (regarding southern style barbecue restaurants)," Nicol says. "This is my dream."
The hickory he uses comes from Denver – a ways to drive, but at least driving across the Mississippi to get that important item isn't necessary.
Nicol and Phillips, along with their 20+ employees, will celebrate a full year in business next month. HQ has been open since April 8, 2011.
"We are really excited," says Nicol. "This is Wyoming's barbecue headquarters. At least, that's what we'd like to see in the future"
Hence, the name: HQ. Dine-in, take-out and catering are available.
As the second year of operation rolls around, Nicol envisions increasing the catering aspect of the business, adding a few more items to the menu, and producing a consistent product.
"We're still young so we're going to focus on consistency – that makes a successful day. We're listening to our customers and we're learning. We want to consistently make our products great, whether on the plate or in the sack," he states.
The restaurant, which seats about 50 people, specializes in pulled pork, brisket, and rib. The staff also serves burgers and chicken, and patrons can purchase beer or alcohol (except wine – there is, however, a "wine substitute", Nicol says, a fruit-based beer product from Belgium). Various homemade sauces, from mild to "nightmare", are available as is a children's menu. Appetizers include grilled shrimp, smoked wings, and HQ skins.
"It's like places where I grew up – ribs and whiskey right off the interstate!" Nichol explains.
The location serves well – convenient to the interstate, providing the "garage style theme" Nicol wanted, and allowing him to continue his strong association with the community of Evansville.
"The building is the size we wanted, and I loved the garage feel," he says. "Also, I worked in the community of Evansville while at Outback so it just feels right to be here.
"It's really a gratifying experience," Nicol adds.
As owner, manager, and pit master, Nicol says he "keeps a finger on the pulse" of the business. He enjoys working for himself and mentoring his employees. But, his primary motivator is providing a quality product that patrons can't find elsewhere.
"Food is my first passion," Nicol states.
"I'm grateful for the support of the community. It seems like everyone wants us to win," he adds.
HQ BBQ is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, generally starting at 11 a.m. For more information, call 315-MYHQ or visit their website at http://hq-bbq.com/. You can also find the business on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HQBBQ.