Saint Louis native Jason Ganahl has barbecue sauce running through his veins. After moving to Colorado, he missed the smokehouse meats of his home town and decided to perfect his own recipes by entering the competitive barbecue circuit more than five years ago. Since then, as a member of the Rocky Mountain BBQ Association, he has earned a reputation as one of the top brisket pit men in country. And now he's ready to open his own barbecue joint: Ganahl has signed a lease at 120th Avenue and Sheridan Street, where he plans to open GQue in mid-October.
Ganahl chose the 2,500-square-foot space, a former Double D's Sourdough Pizza in a Sprouts shopping center in Westminster, after looking at several other locations in the metro area, noticing that the neighborhood was "starving for non-chain restaurants." The setup will be fast-casual, with a full liquor license and a daily menu of barbecue served on butcher paper. Ganahl will have the classic St. Louis favorites, but will also roll out occasional specials like smoked meatloaf, bacon-wrapped jalapeños and smoked bologna — "something fun for the regulars to look forward to," he explains.
Although this will be Ganahl's first restaurant, he's getting advice from a veteran. A friend on Panera Bread's corporate team introduced him to Alon Mor, founder of the Garbanzo fast-casual chain. Ganahl says Mor has been advising him on location, vendors and contractors to help smooth the process of getting GQue off the ground. "The first thing he said was that he wanted to try my food," Ganahl says of the initial meeting with Mor. "He came to the Stock Show in January [where Ganahl was entered in a competition] and tried it and said, 'This is the best barbecue I've ever had in my life,' and I said, 'I know.'"
Ganahl understands that there's a big difference between competition barbecue and restaurant barbecue. "I'm going to keep it as close to competition-quality food as possible," he says. "But the main difference is that I'll be doing twenty briskets at a time instead of one. But the techniques and recipes will be the same."
In addition to meats and sides, GQue will have six beers on tap, a couple of wine options and a selection of bourbons — since Ganahl is a big fan of that spirit.
Although planning the restaurant takes up most of his time, Ganahl is still maintaining a presence on the competitive circuit. Last year, GQue (which is also the name of his barbecue team) was named Grand Champion at the Rockies Invitational BBQ Championship, winning a check for $12,000 at the annual event hosted by the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. He'll be defending the title this year on September 19. "I couldn't stand by and let some Californians come in and take the title away from Colorado," he jokes.