As the clock struck 12’, I shot up from my chair. I normally have an open lunch break where I can mosey across town and select my eatery with care. Today however, I had exactly one hour. With gas pedal to the floor like a rocket at full throttle, I raced across town as if I were trying to escape Earth’s gravitational pull. HQ BBQ was my mission and no time constraint could abort this scientific endeavor.

Arriving at the retired fuel stop, I found the closest thing to a parking space that was available. While the lot is large and parking seems ample, it is a bit haphazard in its layout. As a once functional gas station, it has been pressed into service as a restaurant without modification to the lot layout. Easy to overcome, the drivability will not impact my review.

Once the truck’s afterburners were cooled and the shutdown procedure complete, I initiated the next logical step and opened the door. Releasing the hatch, I allowed atmospheric air into the cabin. As soon as my nose exited the vehicle, the most heavenly smell wafted across my nostrils. Sticking my saliva covered finger in the air, I deduced that the prevailing wind was blowing from the direction of HQ. Now I was excited.

With one small step for man, and one giant leap for my stomach, I stepped into the airlock of the restaurant. I was met by a small but orderly eatery with a comfortable feel. A quick “Howdy” from the wait staff and I was seated. Drink and menu quickly followed. I struggled to understand the menu. Odd numbers seemed randomly placed and dish options were not readily noticeable. I witnessed several other tables expressing the same problems.

With the order into the galley, I had the time to look around. Being that the place is so petite, I didn’t need to venture far from my stool. Tables were very clean. The bar area was immaculate, and walls and ceiling were pristine. Even the backsplash for the beer taps was remarkably shiny. Everywhere I looked, tables were getting quickly cleared of china and chairs were wiped down. I was impressed with the cleanliness and even though I didn’t get a view of the kitchen, I have faith in its cleanliness as well.

Within what seemed like a few minutes, my plate of ribs arrived. I ordered a full rack of dry with sides of mac-n-cheese and chili. Now, I like to smoke my own ribs as a hobby. There is nothing more savory than inventing a rub and spending 12 hours slowly smoking a prime cut of critter. While everybody is partial to their own brand, I really enjoyed the HQ’s tasty ribs. A lightly peppered rub with the characteristic paprika color, it had an excellent flavor. I was also impressed with how well the flavor had permeated the outer layers and was found deep inside. A few of the end pieces hinted at being in the smoker for a little longer than necessary, but it was only a small percentage of the edible meat.

During the course of my inhaling, I found myself with the age old problem of greasy fingers and saucy face. I despise the thought of using a paper napkin in such situations. All they do is disintegrate and leave shards of pulp all over my digits and lips. But the folks at HQ have an elegantly simple solution. Before my eyes was an actual honest to goodness rag. A manly shop towel that was capable of mopping up an oil stain on the driveway or standing in as a baby’s diaper. This thing was absorbent and strong. Part of me wanted to stand up on the bar and applaud, tears welling up in my eyes. Finally I Had found an institution that had figured it out.

The remainder of my dish was hit and miss. Readers had hinted at the decadence of the mac-n-cheese and I will totally agree. It was extremely good. So much so that I want to mail my store bought brands back to their respective factories and demand a refund. The chili was the blah part. It was heavily flavored with green bell pepper. So much so that all I could smell or taste was the bell. It was overpowering enough that I was unable to finish the portion.

Once happily full and ribs fully decimated, I asked for the bill. A full order of ribs, no drink, and a standard tip put me over the $20. My exuberance was quashed by the substantial bill due for my meal. A replay of the menu revealed to me what those random numbers were. Shame on me for not fully understanding the contract I was entering into. Granted, it was a tasty contract. I would like to get accustomed to this way of life, but I doubt my creditors would lend on such poor return potential.

As soon as my debt was void, I sprung toward the door ready to return to the drudgery of work. As I reached my lunar module (my truck), I caught the faint aroma of sizzling pork ribs and decadent sauces. With all the conviction of an intrepid explorer, I claimed this place as a sanctuary to eaters of all kinds. And as soon as congress approves the next budget, I will be back.

Because of the excellent food and comfortable environment, I give HQ BBQ a very respectable 7.75/10 tasty pork ribs.

I deducted based upon the price and confusing menu system. And although not mentioned in the review, I also worry about the acoustics in this building. I did notice that folks setting their plates down too forcefully would send a thunderous echo throughout the building. Should there be a cranky child, beware.

The Casper Food Critic is an independent author and is not employed by K2 Radio or Townsquare Media, LLC. The views expressed by the Casper Food Critic do not reflect those of K2 Radio or Townsquare Media, LLC.

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