by Kate Krader
It’s easier than ever to fake your way through a summertime cookout. You’ve heard about the test tube burger; you had to, it cost $33,000. Meanwhile, sales of alternative meat products, like faux hot dogs, continue to rise (to more than $550 million last year). The one cookout staple that doesn’t easily lend itself to veganism is ribs. So, before someone comes up with a test tube version, let’s shout out epic pork and beef ribs around the country.
Texas star chef Tim Love, whose restaurants include the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro and Love Shack, happens to be a ribs expert. He kindly provided a list of his favorite ribs spots—both pork and beef. Believe it or not, he’s got his eyes wide open enough to find a go-to place in Toronto.
Bludso’s; Compton, CA
This is a storefront with bad-ass pork ribs in a neighborhood I knew only from rap songs. (Now there’s a new branch of Bludso’s in Hollywood.) The ribs are Texas style: They’re not covered in too much sweet sauce, which is one reason I was attracted to them. It turns out that the owner, Kevin Bludso, comes from a Texas barbecue family. He uses just a little bit of a rub, enough to take it beyond salt and pepper and make the meat really good.
JT’s Bar-B-Que; Del City, OK
JT’s is like a real old-school men’s club inside. I think they just got a women’s restroom a few years ago. The ribs are really, really good. JT’s makes them Texas style and uses spareribs; they’re a little thicker than baby backs, which is typically what you see in Oklahoma. The meat just pulls right off the bones. You’ll just see ribs on everyone’s plate.
The Joint; New Orleans
While I love New Orleans and its amazing fusion of Creole and seafood, I just don’t think of it as a great barbecue destination. But this at this place, the pulled pork and pork ribs were off the chart. You can always find BBQ in a BBQ city but to find it in a non-BBQ city is amazing. They use baby backs with a kind of Cajun rub to it, almost like a blackening seasoning.
Jojo’s Barbeque; Potosi, TX
I found this place when I was in San Angelo for my son’s baseball tournament. It is the middle of friggen’ nowhere, a family-run business with kids working the counter. I got the Trinity plate. The brisket is fine, the sausage is pretty good. But the ribs, they were so tender, it was almost as if they were braised. They weren’t, they were smoked with just a little salt and pepper on them. If you find yourself rolling 15 minutes outside that giant city of Abilene, you’re lucky you get to have these ribs.
Barque Smokehouse; Toronto
If you’re this far north and you want to have respectable ribs, I’ve got a place. Barque looks more like a restaurant than a BBQ spot, though there’s a massive smoker in the open kitchen. David Neinstein puts a little bit of sauce on his ribs, then grills them so they’re really crispy. They’re not too messy or too saucy—I just don’t like those ribs. My dad is from Canada, which is how I first found these ribs. I’m a pretty tough dude to please when it comes to meat, and I was impressed. Definitely worth the wait to get into this place.
Woodshed Smokehouse; Fort Worth, TX
This is my spot. We use baby back ribs, which we rub with pure cane sugar, chile powder, toasted cumin, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. We’re real particular, we use pecan wood, and we smoke the ribs for 3 hours and 15 minutes, and serve with zero sauce. That’s really important to me. The herbs are crispy, the meat is nice and tender.
Lockhart Smokehouse; Dallas
You can only get beef ribs here on certain days, so you better know what those days are. Here, they smoke beef shoulder, and about once a week they have beef ribs, which they sell until they run out. They’re seasoned with just straight salt and pepper, and they offer all kinds of pickles to go with them from the pickle bar. The ribs are really meaty, the edges have an awesome crispness.
Smoke Restaurant; Dallas
The chef Tim Byres serves what is basically a giant beef short rib; he calls it The Big Rib. It’s got a thick coating of salt and pepper; the crust is most ridiculous thing you’ve ever had. Tim slow smokes that meat for a long, long time. It’s one solid rib, and it sure as hell looks good, too.
Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que; Llano, TX
Cooper’s has a couple of different locations, but I’m going to talk about the one in Hill Country. They’re famous for their Big Chop, which is a center-cut pork chop. I like their beef ribs that they sell about once a week. Cooper’s does open-pit smoking. They use direct heat, calm the coals down, then put the ribs over them. The meat is a little chewier than some other beef ribs, but it has the most intense smoky flavor.