Sparks Street Ribfest

This post is long overdue, sorry?. Sparks Street Ribfest was Jun 20-24th, it is now exactly a month later. I have been trying to catch up on the Hawaiian restaurant reviews, which is almost done and also overdue??. And it looks like there will be another Ribfest in City Hall on Aug 2-5th!

If you have not heard of Sparks Street Ribfest, it is basically several BBQ vendors or “ribbers” showcasing their best BBQ and other grilled eats along the length of Sparks Street. This usually includes BBQ ribs, pulled pork and BBQ chicken, which means it will be heaven for meat-lovers like me?.

There were 13 ribbers that day. We went fairly early around 12pm on, so it wasn’t that packed yet. It was a gorgeous day, warm with a slight breeze. We walked down the whole of Sparks Street a few times to sample each ribber’s BBQ sauce in deciding which one we want. We opted to go for ribs only, because it was, after all, a RIB-fest. The prices were all along the same lines of – 1/3 rack for $10, 1/2 rack for $15, and full rack for $25. There was some variations depending on if it was beef or pork, or if it was the side or back ribs.

Here was the note I made, we didn’t get to taste all of them because some didn’t offer a sample of their BBQ sauce. And since Uncle Sam was the first one we tried, everything else was mostly relative to it.

  • Uncle Sam – quite sweet
  • Silver Bullet – more tangy
  • Gator – tangy and sweet
  • Camp 31 – tangy, thicker than Silver Bullet
  • Hawgs – sweet (not as sweet as Uncle Sam), a bit tangy and smokey
  • Sticky Finger – sweet and thick, not as tangy
  • Memphis – tangy and not that sweet
  • Bibbs – not that sweet or tangy, it had a unique taste that I wasn’t sure what it was at that point, couldn’t tell the difference in the end as I kept retrying the sauces?

Sorry about the vague descriptions. To me, the BBQ sauces had the two distinct characteristic flavours of sweet and/or tangy, and I wrote down my thoughts based on that. It sounded somewhat detailed to me at the moment, but it seems a bit ill-defined now.

My boyfriend had already made up his mind as he researched before hand by reading reviews about all the vendors. Keener?. He went for Camp 31‘s half rack for $16.

You know the term “fall off the bone” that people use to describe tasty ribs, these ribs were literally falling off the bones. My boyfriend devoured it in minutes. With the 2 bones that he set aside for me, I found it a bit dry, salty, and fatty. The parts covered with sauce was delicious though. I googled about fall off the bone part, it seems that fall off the bone may not be the best complement a rib can get. For some, it may mean the ribs were simply overcooked. Who knew? In the end, it really all depends on what each person’s preference is. Anyways, turned out Camp 31 was the winner for best ribs, best sauce, and best chicken this year.

Personally, I don’t like charred ribs, so I picked the half back ribs from Bibbs. You could see their worker constantly slathering on more sauces on their ribs with a humongous paint brush?.

The first set we got was very dry, as if it was sitting on the rack for a long time. We did not want to be a nuisance, but the ribs were a bit tough to swallow. So my boyfriend went to talk to one of their workers on the side (because I didn’t want to go? and we don’t want to give a bad impression of Bibbs to the other people in line?), the worker immediately got us a replacement. Superb customer service!

The replacement was a lot better, but the top half of it all was still dry-ish. The bottom half was delicious! I picked the back ribs because I thought it was supposed to be less fatty than the side ribs, hence the higher price. However, I still found it quite oily, with many soft mushy fat chunks. Maybe they didn’t render the ribs enough?

Few years ago, I had attended the Sparks Street Ribfest with another friend, and I remembered the ribs to be amazing. They were juicy, succulent, delectable with just the right amount of tug and not too charred. Perhaps my blurry memory glamorized my last ribfest experience, trumping current year’s. My boyfriend said in Ohio, the ribfest he went to gave people tickets to get one bone from each stand. I wish they did that here or had a combo plate of all the different vendors, say one bone from each ribber to make up a full rack and a half, then I could try all of them!

Regardless, it was still a fun event to come out to, for the food, the atmosphere and the company. There were many other items to order if ribs aren’t your thing – pulled pork on its own or as a sandwich, BBQ chicken, sausage, corn bread, and coleslaw. ?

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