Adding to the growing list of Fort Worth barbecue restaurants giving Dallas competition is the first wheel-less setup of Not Just Q, a smoked meats eatery set among 10 other fast-casual stalls in Cowtown’s first food hall: the Food Hall at Crockett Row.
You may recall Not Just Q as a food truck. In 2017, the Dallas Observer awarded it Best Barbecue Food Truck in the Best of Dallas edition for its fall-apart brisket and barbecued meat tacos. Today, a truck still occasionally parks at the Truck Yard in Dallas.
Owning a food truck was not Eric Hansen’s first plan.
“I knew getting a food truck would require some paperwork and hurdles, but I didn’t know it would be this much,” Hansen says. “It took me three years to build my brand. I bided my time. If didn’t have some coin in my back pocket, I would’ve quit.”
That coin in Hansen’s pocket partially comes from his business partner, David Hawthorne, a former Texas Christian University football player who later signed contracts with the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and Buffalo Bills throughout a nine-year NFL career.
Hawthorne discovered Hansen’s barbecue as a food truck customer and liked it so much he invited Not Just Q to cater his birthday party. Unaware of Hawthorne’s identity, Hansen offered to do a drop-off since his truck was booked elsewhere that day. But when he pulled up to the home of a professional athlete, he realized he had canceled the wrong party.
Both Hansen and Hawthorne acquired their love of barbecue from their fathers. It was Hansen’s dad who gave him his first lessons at the pit. Hawthorne’s dad was known as "Mr. BBQ" in Corsicana, where he grew up.
“As a three-sport athlete in high school, I was no stranger to big eating, and if all three meals in my day were barbecue, I’d be a happy camper," Hawthorne writes on their website.
Days after Hawthorne’s birthday party meeting, the two men quickly formed an alliance and bought a second truck. It was how, as Hansen puts it, he built his brand.
The new Crockett Row stand that opened last December is a steppingstone to a possible storefront one day. Until then, Not Just Q fans can more easily get their hands on Hansen’s Kansas City-style ribs and pulled pork. Smoked turkey, chicken and jalapeño sausage also make the meats list and, on the weekends, pork belly burnt ends, called pork candy, are available at $6.99 per pound.
For brisket, Hansen says the only style that counts in this arena is the Texan way. In place of mesquite wood widely used by other popular barbecue joints, Hansen uses post oak for its cleaner, lower burning fire that delivers a subtle smoky flavor without the bitterness caused by oversmoking. It’s what allows him to leave the brisket in the smoker for so long — and what accounts for its juiciness.
True to its name, Not Just Q doesn’t stop at barbecue. They have tacos, topped with any meat on the list, Latin slaw and queso fresco. Chopped and pulled meats join nacho cheese and pico de gallo on loaded nachos and froggy fries. Chicken wings are both smoked and fried before getting coated in one of Hansen’s own sauces. Sides aren’t bad either, with options like cheesy corn, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and smoked pit beans.
Perhaps the most unique offering is a catering option. So long as customers provide it, Hansen will smoke an entire pig for your party, making a table centerpiece guests will long remember. Hansen says customers usually purchase whole hogs at Rudolph’s Market in Deep Ellum. McKinney’s Local Yocal Farm to Market is another option selling Duroc pigs raised in the Heluca method — a crate-free system that prioritizes pigs’ comfort and welfare, especially mama pigs who enjoy padded beds of straw and the freedom to socialize with other pigs when they want.
A medium-sized pig will feed around 40 guests with meat that reviewers describe as tender and moist. A 40-pound pig at Local Yocal will run around $250, and it will cost another $350 for Hansen to smoke it, but the price of throwing the best party ever? Um, priceless.
After realizing he was never going to be successful with a mobile food truck in the manner of the Jon Favreau character who quits his LA chef job in the 2014 movie Chef, Hansen turned to catering. With Hawthorne, they’ve discovered their niche in Fort Worth at TCU, catering tailgate parties and player appreciation dinners at coach Gary Patterson’s house. The food hall stand is helping business, as well.
The original truck is painted on the walls there, a remembrance of how they got their start.
Not Just Q, in the Food Hall at Crockett Row, 3000 Crockett St., Fort Worth