Wichita has many great locally owned barbecue restaurants, as Wichita Eagle Dining Panelist Brad Seehawer pointed out a few weeks ago with his mouthwatering descriptions from his favorite, Wichita staple Pig In Pig Out.
But every now and then, your parents are visiting from out of town and your dad wants to go to a place that he recognizes – a place he’s been before where he knows the menu, knows he can get a lot of food for his money and knows he can tuck his napkin into his shirt without being judged.
Texas Roadhouse will likely be packed, but just up the road and across the highway, you’ll find another solid option: Rib Crib.
The restaurant, part of a Tulsa-based chain, opened at 500 S. Ridge Road in November. Locals with Derby ties are already familiar with the restaurant, which has been operating there since 2003. Now Wichita has its own, and the restaurant so far is proving to be a reliable chain that offers reliably big portions.
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▪ On the menu: As the name would suggest, Rib Crib specializes in ribs, which come baby-back or St. Louis style and can be ordered in a variety of flavors, from original to Oklahoma to spicy Carolina to Asian fusion. The menu also includes all the standard barbecue meats: pulled pork, brisket, turkey, sausage, hot links and more. Two-, three- and four-meat combos are available, and they come with a choice of standard sides, including corn on the cob, mac and cheese, coleslaw, green beans, onion rings and fries.
The menu also includes fried shrimp and fried catfish as well as burgers, sandwiches, chicken tenders, barbecue-topped baked potatoes and salads.
▪ Don’t-miss dishes: I didn’t meet a barbecue meat I didn’t like at Rib Crib, which is one benefit of a chain restaurant: relative consistency. I sampled nearly every meat they offer, and there wasn’t a disappointment among them. All were excessively tender and juicy, and my favorites were the fork-tender sliced turkey, the moist and meaty pulled brisket and the baby-back ribs, which were fall-off-the-bone perfection with a nice caramelized crust.
I ordered the ribs as part of a “surf and swine” combo, which came with a serving of fried shrimp, two sides, a dill pickle slice and some white toast. I could have chosen fried catfish or shrimp for the surf selection of my meal, and I went with the shrimp. The portion was generous, as was the size of the jumbo shrimp, which were breaded and fried until they crunched. These were no popcorn shrimp – they were huge and flavorful and made even better when they took a dip in the tub of spicy cocktail sauce served on the side.
The four-meat platter rounded out my tour of the fruits of Rib Crib’s smoker, and that’s where I sampled that juicy brisket, fork-tender sliced turkey, a melt-in-your-mouth sliced sausage and some pulled pork, which was the weakest meat on the platter, but not because it was bad. It just wasn’t as good as its neighbors.
Like many barbecue restaurants, Rib Crib puts a lineup of barbecue sauces on the table for people to sample. I give it kudos for including a mustard-based Carolina sauce, which is my favorite, alongside the typical sweet-mild and hot-and-spicy. It’s fun to try all three and see how they change the flavors of the meats.
The sides are a bit of an afterthought. Rib Crib’s mac and cheese, for example, was a serving of disintegrating pasta with gloppy cheese sauce. But its corn on the cob, which usually appears from a restaurant kitchen emaciated and shrinking, was still plump and crunchy. And I liked the coleslaw, whose flavor appealed to my palate by focusing on vinegar rather than sugar.
▪ Ambience: Rib Crib has a typical chain restaurant interior: high ceilings, brick, exposed duct work and lots of posters, vintage signage and knickknacks decorating the walls. Wichita’s Rib Crib is still brand new and spotless, save a few barbecue sauce stains on the carpet, and I was amused to find a poster on the back wall for a favorite vampire cult film from 1987, “The Lost Boys,” with Kiefer Sutherland and both Coreys (Feldman and Haim).
▪ Price range: Meat platters, served with two sides, are $17.99 for four, $15.99 for three and $14.99 for two. A whole rack of ribs plus three sides is $29.99. Sandwiches and burgers range from $7.99 to $10.99. Nonbarbecue meals range from $9.99 for a barbecue burrito to $17.99 for the “Surf and Swine” plate.
▪ Service: Service was good, and the food came out quickly. We’re told wait times for a table are long on weekend nights, but the restaurant offers call-ahead seating.
If you would like to nominate a restaurant to be reviewed, call 316-268-6327.