It started as a quest to visit all the 60+ BBQ places in the counties of Madison, Limestone, Morgan, and Lawrence in Northern Alabama (that is the Hunstville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area).
Then I got sent back to Germany and there was no BBQ. But eventually I got assigned to a new job which takes me on business trips in the USA occasionally. So I reopened the blog – just deleted the “North Alabama” from the title.
Friday, March 29, 2013
Shane's Rib Shack
Quest Log No 50 – Shane’s Rib Shack Huntsville, Madison County
Opening a BBQ place of your own is
the dream of every backyard pit master. Very often, it is the sauce that
everybody in the neighborhood just loves, which plants the seeds of the idea to
go professional. Not a bad basis, but BBQ is more than that. If the meat is
terrible, the best sauce in the world will not save the business. And what
about the sides? Many of those restaurants of ex-backyard pit masters only
concentrate on the meat and the sauce, and put rather pedestrian sides on the
And even worse, what can you expect
from an ex-backyard pit master, who not only opened his own BBQ place, but then
expanded the business into a franchise with about 70 locations in the
Southeast, the Southwest, and the Northeast? Surely he had to cut corners,
standardize the whole process, and rationalize the preparation of the food, so
that it could be done with comparable quality everywhere.
That this does not necessarily mean
adhering to the highest possible standards, but rather finding the least common
denominator, should be self evident.
So, now Huntsville has been blessed with its own
Shane’s Rib Shack. Hallelujah, just what we needed here to survive the BBQ
shortage that plagued us all so terribly the last few decades.
It is located in a plaza with other
eateries like Bonefish Grill, Subway’s, Nothing but Noodles, and Zoë’s Kitchen,
so the local lunch crowd now also can have its BBQ cravings satisfied.
The fairly big inside of the
restaurant is your typical sports-bar/family place, with wooden furniture and
semi-booths dressed in red faux-leather.
You order at a counter in the back,
put the sign with a number on your table and after a short while your meal is
brought to you. The staff is very friendly and attentive, and the place is
The decoration mostly consists of
flat screen TVs on the walls, and some framed football shirts. It was kind of
odd to see a Raider’s shirt there, and no trace of a Tide or Auburn shirt, or maybe one from the Atlanta
Falcons. The Raiders, really?! Not a team known for its success lately, like,
oh well, some Alabama
football teams. Just saying.
But it is surely a place you can go
eat with the kids; they even have four different kid’s menu items.
Although the name of the name
implies that they see their ribs as the main attraction, I refrained from that
and had the pork plate instead, with baked beans and fries. They don’t have
potato salad on the menu and I didn’t want to have chips or mac’n’cheese, and from
the picture on the big menu behind the counter, the cole slaw did not look very
special to me, so I deviated from what I usually order.
Big mistake, I should have taken
something else. The fries were too salty, almost borderline inedible, and the
baked beans were of the sweeter-than-sweet variety, and I could swear that I
had very similar beans once out of a can from a supermarket.
The meat was very tender and lean,
but a bit dry and with just a slight smoke flavor. Not bad, but I had better. The
"Original" sauce, on the other hand, is a killer. Vinegar, tomato and pepper, with a hint
of mustard, a little sweetness to it – I ate it on the toast when I was through
with the meat.
But is that enough to justify a
thumbs-up for this place? Well, it will find its fans, and since it is
relatively kids friendly, my guess is that it will be there for a while. And
what the heck, should I be ever in this part of town when a sudden BBQ craving
overwhelms me, and my gas tank would only allow me to travel another mile or
so, I would probably go there again. But instead of the two sides that come
with each plate, I would order two additional slices of bread – for the sauce.