While reviewing my site stats I saw that I was getting a ton of hits on EatWisconsin from people searching for “Great Northern BBQ Waukesha” or some similar combination because I mentioned that it was opening about a month or so ago. Well I figured I’d better check it out and post an early review (there is also a review on RoadFood which can be found here).
The Great Northern BBQ Company is located in a strip mall on Silvernail Road in Waukesha (or maybe its Pewaukee…I’m not really sure where the actual border is). Though I think a downtown Waukesha location would be much cooler, they have done an admirable job with the place. There is a small bar with two beers and Sprecher Root Beer on tap and a single flat screen tv. If you don’t like their tap selection (I believe it was Miller Lite and Spotted Cow) they have plenty of bottles as well. I opted for a Sprecher Winter Brew, which was a great accompaniment to the BBQ’d meats I ordered.
Ann Christenson of Milwaukee Magazine mentioned in Dish On Diningthat the owner, Mike Killey, was a friend of Scott McGlinchey the former owner of Q. Fans of Q will recognize not only the tables, but the menu as well. The menu is very similar to what was offered at the two Q locations and features a wide range of smoked meats including ribs, brisket, pulled pork, BBQ chicken, sausage, and wings. In addition to these items, the Great Northern BBQ Company has fried chicken, shrimp and fish. But I was here for BBQ. I decided to try a 2-meat combo and selected the ribs and beef brisket as my meats. With the combo you select two sides from an impressive list including fries, cheesy corn, cole slaw, potato salad, mashed potatoes with gravy, and cowboy beans. I went with the cole slaw and the cheesy corn.
I took a seat at the bar and in front of me was a 6-pack holder with various sauces including Fire In The Hole (spicy), Texas Style (a zesty sauce), a Northern Wisconsin sauce (with cranberries) and a customer favorite from Q, the Sprecher Rootbeer Sauce. Unless I missed it, there didn’t appear to be a mustard sauce, which I really enjoy but the other sauces are great so it’s not a big deal. My first bite of the dry-rubbed ribs was with the Sprecher sauce. It was sweet and worked very well with the smoky ribs. I really missed this sauce and I was very excited to be able to have it again. The ribs were smoked to perfection with a nice deep red ring imparted by the long, slow smoke. They were tender and a little chewy, perfectly done. These are not falling-off-the-bone, which proves that Mike Killey knows how to barbeque. True BBQ ribs should have a bit of resistance when you bite into them. If you go to a restaurant and the ribs are falling off the bone, chances are that they were either boiled or cooked in the oven, which is just plain wrong! These ribs are nothing short of awesome and I enjoyed sampling the various sauces with each rib. My favorites for the ribs are the Sprecher sauce and the spicy Fire In The Hole. The brisket was also very good, but a little bit drier than I hoped. But don’t let that deter you, it still had enough moisture to make it good and also had a nice deep smoky flavor. The meat really didn’t need sauce as it was flavorful enough on its own, though I liked them with a bit of the Texas style sauce.
Fans of Q will recognize the awesome cheesy corn side dish. The corn, mixed with Jalapenos and melted cheese is so good I could probably eat a bowl of it for dinner. There is enough Jalapeno heat to satisfy chili-heads, but not too much as to overpower the corn. The cole slaw was also good and I imagine it would taste great piled atop some pulled pork on a sandwich.
As I sat at the bar eating my food I couldn’t help but smile. This barbeque was very impressive and I was glad that some elements of the underrated Q restaurants got a second chance at life at the Great Northern BBQ Company. I could see myself coming back here often (especially since its only 10 min from my house). I cannot wait to try the pulled pork, chicken, and one of my favorite items from Q, the smoked wings. Given how many mediocre Fish Frys are served in the area, I’ll probably try the breaded cod dinner some Friday as well.
So for all of you chain restaurant-loving Western Suburbanites who anxiously wait for tables at the Texas Roadhouse or Famous Dave’s (both of which serve very average BBQ), head on over to The Great Northern BBQ Company for some of the best barbecue in southeastern Wisconsin.
Great Northern BBQ Company, 2177 Silvernail Road Pewaukee, WI 53072 262-446-3670.