If your idea of BBQ ribs is a pot of boiling water, a propane grill and a bottle of Kraft bbq sauce, this post is for you. You see, you can make ribs that way and they might turn out tasty, but that isn’t real BBQ. It’s simply a means to an end.
Last week I set out to explore the BBQ Triangle (as named by me) to crown a winner of the 93703. Within about a 1.5 mile radius there are 3 joints that claim to have the best BBQ in Fresno: Ruben’s Rib Shack, Smokin Them Bones and Watts Family Grill. So far I have not been let down. Bloated and gassy yes! Disappointed no!
My first stop was at Ruben’s Rib Shack (actually my first stop was Smokin Them Bones but they were not serving that day. More on that in my next post). Ruben’s is located at 2421 E. Clinton, Fresno, Ca, 93703. They also have a web page: www.rubensribshack.com
First of all every BBQ joint needs to have a smoker. If you don’t have a smoker then you’re a poser, plane and simple. If you have multiple smokers than that’s an added bonus. If your smoker is homemade you get extra points for that too. Basically I want to see manly smoker with wood/lump charcoal burning. Ruben’s passed that test.
If you don’t have ribs (preferably beef & pork), brisket and pulled pork on your menu, than you should just call yourself a deli. You have to sell authentic BBQ, period. No exceptions. I don’t want to see any pre-cooked Lloyds pork either. Ruben’s has all of the above, with the exception of Lloyds.
Another thing to note, if your side dishes come out of a can or plastic tub that was delivered from your local Sysco driver, you suck. I can eat that at home. I don’t want potato salad out of a tub. Gross. I’m not saying you have to melt down 4 different types of artisan cheese for your mac-n-cheese but it better not be easy mac. Ruben’s makes everything from scratch so far as I can tell.
To be fair to the joints mentioned above, I ordered (or attempted to order) the same meal: Pork Spare Ribs, Beans, and Mac-n-Cheese. If they don’t make it oh well. I tried.
My idea of a good rib is one that has balance. The meat shouldn’t fall off the bone as soon as I take a bite, there should still be some left on the bone. If not its overcooked. Also, the meat should stand on its own and shouldn’t be covered with so much sauce that I can’t tell what’s underneath. It’s kind of like a steak drowned in A-1 and also could be a sign that’s it’s, Doh, day old. Noooooooooo!!
Getting to the point, the average customer will like these ribs. The flavor was spot on and the texture was nice. His sauce is excellent, sweet and spicy. Unfortunately there was just way too much of it. It overpowered the meat. In regards to tenderness, they were indeed fall off the bone tender, and maybe even a little too tender. It’s likely that they were smoked and then stored in a hotbox for several hours+.
On to the side dishes. The mac-n-cheese was outstanding. The cheese was very creamy and the macaroni was cooked perfectly. Notice the specks of pepper. Zing! The beans were also good. They were somewhere between a re-fried and chili-bean. Nice balance of flavors with a little bit of heat at the end. The roll was well just a roll.
So how much was it? Rib plate $11.99, Soda $1.80= $15.01. No quite what i want to pay for a mid-week lunch but you get what you pay for and I was stuffed.
So one meal down and two more to go. First official blog post completed. Have you been to Ruben’s? What was your impression? Feel free to join the conversation below. Til next time.