One of Houston’s underground barbecue sensations is taking the next step towards entering the mainstream. JQ’s Tex-Mex BBQ will begin a weekly pop-up at Rice Village food hall Politan Row starting this Saturday, October 10 at 12 pm.
The pop-up will provide a more permanent home for pitmaster Joseph Quellar and his Mexican-influenced take on Central Texas-style barbecue. JQ’s has become primarily known for its beef birria tacos. Made with a chile-rubbed blend of brisket and oxtail that’s smoked and then boiled, the tender, spicy meat gets a layer of melty cheese before being stuffed into a tortilla and served with consomme made from the broth.
Once relatively unknown or only made with lamb or goat, birria tacos have become a statewide sensation. Quellar credits an article by Texas Monthly taco editor José Ralat for taking the movement from underground sensation to a mainstream dish that's suddenly menus everywhere across Houston and beyond.
“I think people were looking for something new and different,” Quellar tells CultureMap. “That’s what birria does. It looks great and of course people like lines. They want to find the new thing to do.”
Even before Ralat’s article, JQ’s earned a solid reputation through pop-ups local breweries and at events organized by the Houston BBQ Festival, but moving to Politan Row will help it continue to grow.
“I need to legitimize JQ’s completely: commercial kitchen, fully permitted, insurance. It’s us taking the next step,” Quellar says.
At Politan Row, JQ’s will serve its signature birria tacos, as well as empanadas and its award-winning smoked brisket tamales. Quellar will also offer some traditional Texas barbecue and a few sides. The event starts at noon and runs until the meat sells out.
Customers will be able to pair their smoked meats with wine, beer, or cocktails from Politan Row’s bar. The food hall’s six other vendors will be serving their signature cuisines as well, so a family could go and assembled a variety of dishes with their tacos.
“We are so excited to bring JQ's Tex-Mex BBQ into the mix at Politan Row,” Politan Row culinary director Kirstin Moburg-Davis tells CultureMap. “There is so much heart in what they do; Joseph fits right in with our passionate group of home-grown entrepreneurs.”
Adding JQ’s is one of a number of pop-ups Politan Row has hosted recently, including an appearance last weekend by ChòpnBlọk, the up-and-coming West African fast casual concept that was featured in the Houston-focused episode of No Passport Required, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s PBS series.
After limiting JQ at the start of the pandemic, Quellar has resumed his travels to spread the birria gospel. A recent pop-up in Austin drew long (socially-distanced) lines and a quick sell out. Next weekend, he’ll be at Barbosa’s Barbeque in Denver; the week after that, he’s traveling to Connecticut’s acclaimed Hoodoo Brown BBQ for a two-day pop-up.
From then on, he plans to be at Politan Row every Saturday for the foreseeable future. “As long as the Politan brass says it’s ok,” he notes.