Ribfest 2009

Ribfest 2009

This weekend the yearly Ribfest was held at the Mid-America center (well, the parking lot) and Jess and I decided to head down and do a head to head taste test of all the ribs.  We arrived on Saturday (the third day) around noonish and went right to work procuring the meaty goodness.  So, let’s get to reviewing in the order tasted:

Texas Outlaws – 3.5/10 Average | 6th Place (tie)

I don’t know about you, but I like my barbecue sauce to taste like, well, barbecue sauce.  The sauce they slathered onto our ribs tasted like ketchup.  This doesn’t mean to say it had a slight “ketchupy taste,” rather I would believe them if they told me they just darkened up and watered down a bottle of the stuff.  When it came to the meat, it was decent.  Was pretty dry, but it came off the bone well and we didn’t have to gnaw through it.  I liked this slightly more than Jess due to the meat (4/10 Jason | 3/10 Jess), but it still was pretty rough.

Texas Outlaws BBQ

Texas Outlaws BBQ

Texas Outlaws BBQ Ribs

Texas Outlaws BBQ Ribs

Big Boned BBQ – 3.5/10 Average | 6th Place (tie)

When it comes to ribs, for me, the meat is the most important part of the equation.  Sure, you need to have a decent rub, and a bad sauce can ruin everything, but if the meat is tough, the rib is worthless.  I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.  The ribs we got were almost uneatable… it even hurt our teeth to try and pull the meat off the bones (of which, I’ll admit, there was a lot).  The sauce wasn’t too bad, kind of buttery, but seasoned well.  I just couldn’t get past the texture of the meat, though Jess did like this slightly more than I did (3/10 Jason | 4/10 Jess).  Sorry guys, maybe next year.

Big Boned BBQ

Big Boned BBQ

Big Boned BBQ Ribs

Big Boned BBQ Ribs

Willinghams – 5.5/10 Average | 4th Place

There are dry rubs, and then there are dry rubs.  To quote the great Phillip J. Fry:

“Egh, that’s the saltiest thing I’ve ever tasted! And I once ate a big heaping bowl of salt!”

Seriously… the only thing that stopped the burn of the salt was their sauce.  The meat was great (crisp outside, moist inside, falls off the bone), but I kept crunching down on salt crystals.  It was too much for me, which is sad, as it had a good taste to it.  The scoring was higher in Jess’ favor this time (5/10 Jason | 6/10 Jess).

Willinghams BBQ

Willinghams BBQ

Willinghams BBQ Ribs

Willinghams BBQ Ribs

Chicago BBQ Company – 6.5/10 Average | 2nd Place (tie)

Let me tell you, this was some good meat.  The meat was crisp, moist, falling off the bone, and wasn’t greasy.  Good stuff.  I’m sure you’re wondering how it managed to only get second place.  Well, the sauce, you see, was like candy.  I don’t know how to explain the sweetness better than having you go eat some sugar.  The flavor was alright (a slightly buttery aftertaste), but the sweetness overpowered everything.  I felt like this was supposed to be some sort of dessert.  Now, Jess loves sweet things, so to her, this was awesome (5/10 Jason | 8/10 Jess), but I couldn’t do it.

Chicago BBQ Company

Chicago BBQ Company

Chicago BBQ Company Ribs

Chicago BBQ Company Ribs

Cowboy’s BBQ – 8.5/10 Average | 1st Place (WINNER)

This line was long.  Very long.  We waited over 15 minutes in the sun to try these ribs, when the average wait at the other places were around five.  Let me tell you, the wait was worth it.  These were the best ribs we’d had this year, by far.  I’d love to taste them side by side with our old favorites (Johnson’s BBQ) and see who came out on top.  The meat was perfect… if I had a complaint, it was that there was wasn’t much of it.  The sauce was sweet, but not too sugary… just perfection.  Jess liked this a little more than I did (8/10 Jason | 9/10 Jess), but it was still excellent.

Cowboy's BBQ

Cowboy's BBQ

Cowboy's BBQ Ribs

Cowboy's BBQ Ribs

Aussom Aussie – 6.5/10 Average | 2nd Place (tie)

All of the booths in the ribfest has “sampler” plates of ribs for $6.00, and this is what Jess and I got to check them all out.  The reason I tell you this is that Aussom Aussie charged a dollar more ($7.00) for their sampler.  No reason was given and the line was pretty long, so I assumed that these ribs would be awesome (or aussom).  I’ll admit, they weren’t the worst (by a long shot), but they definitely weren’t the best.  The sauce was pretty good, but the meat was tough (though not as tough as Big Boned) and greasy.  Luckily the taste was great or it wouldn’t have had the score it did (6/10 Jason | 7/10 Jess).

Aussom Aussie BBQ

Aussum Aussie BBQ

Aussom Aussie BBQ Ribs

Aussom Aussie BBQ Ribs

Texas Rib Rangers – 4.5/10 Average | 5th Place

Okay, this one deserves more credit, as I thought it was pretty awesome.  The meat was tender, the sauce was spot on.  Good show all around… in fact, I thought it was a contender for 1st place.  Unfortunately Jessica didn’t care for it.  At all.  She thought it tasted stale and was too soft.  She didn’t like any part of it and gave it her lowest score.  Perhaps we’ll have to try them again in the future and see if she still feels that way (8/10 Jason | 1/10 Jess).

Texas Rib Rangers BBQ

Texas Rib Rangers BBQ

Texas Rib Rangers BBQ Ribs

Texas Rib Rangers BBQ Ribs

Howlin’ Coyote – 6/10 Average | 3rd Place

This was a very interesting rib to review.  To start with the meat, it was done very well.  Lots of meat on the bone and it was very tender without being greasy.  The interesting part comes from the sauce… it tasted like pineapples.  Not like a slight hint of pineapple, but full on pineapple.  It wasn’t bad, to be honest, it was just very different.  I ended up having a second rib to see if I could warm to the taste and I think that if I had a whole plate of them, I would have.  I liked these a bit more than Jess (7/10 Jason | 5/10 Jess), but I think the oddness of the pineapple affected her score here.

Howlin' Coyote BBQ

Howlin' Coyote BBQ

Howlin' Coyote BBQ Ribs

Howlin' Coyote BBQ Ribs

Welp, the tasting is over and our winner was decided.  I’ll tell you, I think I’ll wait until next ribfest to have ribs again, as that much pork in that little time did me in.  It was a nice way to pass the day, though… even if Jess ended up with a sunburn (could be worse though, as seen in this shot from ’07).  If you have a favorite rib joint, please share… I’m always looking for suggestions wherever they may be!


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2 Comments

  1. Derek Says:

    Figures – your 1st place choice was one of the places I don’t think I got to try. Our favorite was the Chicago BBQ Company, though we ate the majority of our ribs without sauce and judged them sans-sauce. Now I want some ribs. Have you been to Hartland BBQ? That was the winner of the F&SM Omaha BBQ Shoot out.

    Omaha BBQ Review – The Best BBQ in Omaha

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  2. Jason Says:

    I think if I rated sans-sauce, Chicago would have had a good #1 chance… the sauce was just so sweet I couldn’t stand it (the reason I rated all with sauce is that a few of the places served it with sauce already on it).

    I haven’t been out to Hartland BBQ, but have wanted to since hearing about them (and seeing that they won the shoot-out).

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