Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Rib Whip - Kansas City Spare Ribs

The great thing about ribs is that there are so many different ways to prepare them, and throughout our country there are a variety of regional differences. One of the more popular comes from where smoked ribs got their start, Kansas City. I was presented with a choice between two different styles from The Rib Whip last week, but as soon as I heard the description of both, my decision was easyI knew that I had to try their 1/4 rack Kansas City Spare Ribs.

Believe it or not, there was a period of several years where I not only didn't eat ribs, but I also didn't eat most pork products (bacon was an exception). I even, kicking myself for it now, turned down a porchetta sandwich when I was in Tuscany, from a place that only served it once a week. My whole family tried it, raved about it, and I still shook my head, touting "pork doesn't agree with me." Woe is me for for many delicious meals I have missed, especially on that trip through Tuscany.

However, my first visit to Roli Roti last year completely changed my view on pork, and since then, I have developed a love-hate relationship with it. I love it when it's done right, crispy and smoky and full of robust flavor. But I hate that pork, once billed as "the other white meat" as an alternative to chicken, is almost never healthy when prepared by any methods that make it delicious. Sure, my Sunday evening lemon pork roast has its moments, but it's nothing compared to porchetta, bacon, or my new favorite dish du jour: ribs.

Even when I went back to eating pork, I eschewed eating ribs because of some earlier meals that had me worshipping the porcelain god. But when hubby suggested grilling up a rack a few months ago, I went along with it. I figured if anything, tossing up my meal would result in some weight loss, so no harm in giving it a go. That dinner changed everything! Those ribs just melted in my mouth. A few hours later, I wasn't holed up in the bathroom, but I was craving more ribs. I had them the next day. I asked for them next week. I went searching out ribs, ribs and more ribs! I tried three different kinds last week at a rib cook-off between SFPD, SFFD and SF Parks and Rec. I can't get enough! As soon as I saw The Rib Whip on the Off the Grid schedule at Vallejo and Front last week, my lunch plans were solidified. I spent my days talking aboutand thinking abouttheir ribs.

The Rib Whip, which has recently partnered with Cedar Hill Kitchen and Smokehouse for all of their smoking, offered two different kinds of ribs. First on the menu was rib tips, which was described to me as the boneless, meatier tip of the rib. It sounded good, but since I could only have one, I chose the bone-in option, Kansas City-style spare ribs. They just seemed more...traditional. Some folks say it's here that BBQ ribs got their start. A few minutes later my name was called and a heavy take-away container was placed in my hands.

My ribs looked so amazing that I dug in before I could even take a picture. My five ribs weighed in at a little over 9 ounces, and were glimmering with little pools of BBQ sauce, neatly topped on each one. Normally they come four to an order, but I am guessing since two of my ribs were on the small side, I received five. Still, over a half pound to an order is a pretty hefty portion! They were a dark crimson red, with charring around the edges, and just the smell and sight made my mouth water.

My initial impression held true, and with just one bite I was hooked on these ribs. The meat was so tender it practically fell off of the bone, a clear result of the hours of slow smoking.  When I was done, my bone was spotless, with very little effort. The pork, which was crispy on the outside, was soft and juicy and practically melted on my tongue. The sauce, a typical thick Kansas City-style tomato and molasses based BBQ one, was tangy and sweet, and without much spice. It was very flavorful, but it didn't overpower the ribs. The sauce here was more of a compliment, and I appreciated that the ribs were not smothered in it. There was no need to hide these ribs under a blanket of sauce; they were well-seasoned and could certainly stand on their own.

My day long craving for ribs was well satiated with my lunch time order. I brought along some wilted spinach and leeks to accompany my lunch, so I only ended up eating three of the five before I was quite full. Even reheated the next day my remaining two were pretty darn good! My two colleagues who also got the ribs agreedthey were certainly something special. It's no wonder that The Rip Whip often runs out of ribs before the end of service.

Rating: 4/5 (ratings guide)

The Rib Whip (@theribwhip) $8.00 per order of four ribs

Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!

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