Friday, October 17, 2008

Ribs Are the Feature at Old Country Buffet

Last week I wrote that Old Country Buffet has a new feature on the weekends - Friday through Sunday at dinner. The feature is Kansas City Ribs and Butterfly Shrimp. As I said last week, the shrimp is no big deal at OCB, but the ribs are actually something special.

When I learned about this new feature I decided that I would take the first opportunity to go back and have the Kansas City Ribs. These ribs and the baby back ribs that OCB has served as part of summer feature menus years past are some of the best that buffets have to offer. I was hoping that the ribs on the new feature would be as good.

I arrived at OCB on a Friday night and there was a long line to get in. Since there has been no publicity for the rib feature other than a small poster located behind the cashier at this OCB I was sure that the crowd was not there for the ribs. I held my anticipation and waited my turn to pay and enter the dining room. Of course, the first thing I had to do after finding a table was make sure that those ribs were out on the buffet. What I found were a few scraps on a carving board in the carving area with a sign that said "Pork Riblets". Pork Riblets! That is not the same as Kansas City Ribs. Riblets are the chopped pork formed into rib shape served at fast food restaurants. I tempered my anger and had my soup and salad.

When I went up for my entree I went back to the carving area and what did I see - cut up Kansas City Ribs! Well, at least three of them, which was all that was left at the moment. Not wanting to be a grabber I took two of them and left the third for someone else. The ribs were not served as they were when they were the summer feature. Then they would be brought out in trays with a nice layer of warm barbecue sauce on top of the hot ribs. Now they were brought out to be carved. As the young lady who was carving seemed not wanting to be bothered by the customers coming up, she just cut up everything in advance and left a serving fork and tongs. This is not out of the ordinary at this particular OCB and I am almost certain that at others you will find that the employees are carving and slicing to order.There was some sauce on the ribs, but not much - not enough.

I took my ribs back to the table to see if they were as good as I remember. The meat on the first rib just fell away from the bone - my preference for this type of ribs. The meat was tender, a bit fatty, and the taste was exactly what I was hoping for. As I say, a little more sauce would have been nicer. The second rib that I had was not as cooked through as the first and the meat did not fall away, but did not take much coaxing to come off.

When I went back for more there were only a few scraps left on the carving board. I took a little of what looked worthwhile and waited for more to come out. When I got back again there were just two ribs left and this time I did take them both.

I thought about adding barbecue sauce, which is out on the condiment bar, but squeezed on sauce is never as good as cooked on sauce and decided that it would just overwhelm the taste of the ribs. These ribs were like the second that I tried. The meat did not fall off the bone but did pull right off. The taste was good and these ribs were not a dissappointment.

It is hard to find good ribs at buffets. Several buffets offer pork ribs. Few that are offered are "really" good. I have long felt that the Kansas City Ribs and the Baby Back Ribs are the best of what OCB has - and they do not bring them onto the menu often enough. I have tried ribs at other chain buffets and they are not as good. These have equalled those that I have had a more expensive restaurants. They are probably nothing like the ribs from "REAL" barbecue places - but I have not been to a "serious" barbecue "joint". Don't compare these Kansas City Ribs to the Beef Ribs that OCB usually serves - these are much, much better.

The feature is for a limited time. How limited I do not know. The feature may also not be offered at all OCB's as the website does not mention them. Call your OCB and ask before using the gas to make the trip (so sad that we need to think that way these days).

Oh and that Riblet sign - why would they do that? How hard is it to take a marker and write a small sign to stick up with the correct name on it? These are not riblets, they were the real thing.


David Deal said...

The new pork ribs feature finally arrived at the Madison, Wisconsin OCB the weekend of Jan 16th. This past weekend I tried them during a busy Sunday lunch. My experience was rather different - the ribs were a little bit on the tough side, and the girl manning the carving table guarded them tenaciously. She doled them out only one at a time. I asked for a second one and received it, but when one of my dining partners asked for a second rib, she refused and insinuated that he was being selfish! Her attitude didn't dissuade me from returning a third and fourth time to get another rib, but it did put a damper on my attitude toward the new ribs. I agree that the ribs were light on barbeque sauce, but I went ahead and tried adding some from the tub in the condiment area. I too was afraid that it wouldn't be as good as cooked on sauce, but I wound up finding that it improved what I would call an otherwise lackluster, almost "porky", taste. Adding the sauce made them much better in taste, but did nothing for the texture. I love ribs, so I am hoping that this first bad experience was only the result of the busy state of the buffet at the time...

Robert A said...

To my surprise ribs are still being offered - usually these OCB features only last a month or two. Lately the ribs - when and if they are brought out from the kitchen have not been as good as they had been. Tough,chewy,and a bit gamey in taste - a noticeable difference from ribs that are cooked over time with fall off the bone meat. These seem to be made on the grill or in a fast, hot oven now.