Saturday, June 14, 2008

Got Ribs?

More to the point: need ribs? Ever since Armadillo’s second incarnation, on Park Avenue in Worcester, went out of business, it’s been a challenge to find decent barbeque in the area. When Chuck was working in Greater Boston, we used to swing by the consistently excellent (and aptly named) “Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q” in Arlington. We would call in our order and pick it up “to go”. No matter how well they packed it up for us, as the smoky aroma filled our car, the ride home became excruciatingly long! We’ve been to Firefly’s in Marlborough a couple of times and it’s been good. But as Chuck has reported: “Our socks are still on.” We tried The Texas BBQ Company in Northborough and it too was good, but, again, nothing to write home about. Wild Willy’s in Worcester helped take the edge off our jonesing for barbeque with their very good chili and tasty burgers. But they don’t pretend to be a barbeque joint, so our search continued.

Well, the search is over. Welcome Texas Roadhouse! You know I prefer local, independent places to national chains, but I will happily and no doubt repeatedly, make an exception for Texas Roadhouse. The other day, Chuck had a craving for ribs. Thinking it meant a long distance trip or settling for ersatz barbeque somewhere, I began suggesting all kinds of local, yet non-barbeque alternatives. No dice. Chuck suggested we try the Texas Roadhouse over on Lincoln Street. I wasn’t enthused, but he’s my BFF/Hero/Wonder Hubby so I resisted whining and off we went. It was after eight o’clock on a Thursday night, but the parking lot was crowded. The restaurant has the look of a western theme park about it from the outside and when we walked in, it was dimly lit, crowded and very noisy. A pleasantly chipper hostess greeted us immediately and began to take us to our table. She must have caught my deer-in-the-headlights look and paused to ask if this was our first visit. She explained how everything worked as she brought us over to our booth. Two tin buckets were waiting for us; one filled with roasted peanuts, the other waiting for the shells. "What have I gotten myself into?" I thought as I smiled gamely at Chuck.

Another enthusiastic staffer approached. It was Maria, our server for the evening. She was great; patient, friendly and most importantly, met my number one requirement: attentive without being intrusive. We read the menu. In light of our recent forays to Wild Willy’s, I decided to get an “All American Cheddar Burger” to which I added bacon. Chuck ordered the “Fall Off The Bone Ribs”. Again, because of Wild Willy’s, we each ordered a cup of the Chili. The Chili arrived first and it was darn good. Straightforward, beef and bean chili with the right flavors and just enough spicy heat. I was no longer feeling grim. Then the entrees arrived. The steak fries accompanying my burger were very good. The burger came on a “Goldilocks” bun: not too big, not too small, but just the right size and of good flavor. The burger itself was well charred and cooked just to the medium side of well done, which turned out to be great. It was really delicious. While I was exploring my plate, Chuck was tucking into his ribs. He had ordered the green beans which had a very good pot liquor flavor about them, but were still identifiably green! The mashed potatoes were real and tasted thus. But it was the ribs that had Chuck on the verge of a “When Harry Met Sally” moment. They were exactly as the menu promised: fall off the bone tender, well charred, smoky, with a slightly caramelized sauce on the outside.

Chuck was raised in St. Louis, Missouri. They know from barbeque in that neck of the woods. Add to that, his Dad liked to barbeque on the blacktop turnaround behind the carport, which was attached to their ranch house. For Chuck, barbeque is all tangled up with happy memories of childhood, St. Louis, his Dad and summer weekends framed by charcoal smoke. The barbeque bar is set very high for my husband. Last Thursday night, Texas Roadhouse cleared that bar. Chuck was happy. I was happy. There was just a slight pang as something precious and perfect from the past seemed to be eclipsed. But it wasn’t really. The Roadhouse had just brought all those good memories flooding back - and that was at no charge.


dancingmorganmouse said...

barbeque in the US is completely different from barbeque in Australia, I suspect I'd like the US version though.

Pink Granite said...

Hi DMM -
I apologize in advance for what I am about to type.
I'm afraid all I know about Australian barbeque is the phrase from the Crocodile Dundee movie: "Throw another shrimp on the barbie"!
That and once on television, I saw an Australian chef make a "breakfast pizza" on an outdoor grill and then break an egg in the center of it.
Hanging my head in uneducated shame...
- Lee