Sparks, Nevada: 2006 Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook Off blog
If other Chowhounders go to the Nugget Rib Cook Off I thought this would be a good thread to record what we like and don't like.
I got there today just after 5 p.m. and there was plenty of parking at Sparks Municipal Court.
I stayed near the west end of the event on Victorian Avenue, never going as far as 11th Street.
I tried four places. My favorite ribs were at the extreme west end. They were also the cheapest at $5 for a sampler: Famous Dave's.
It turns out Famous Dave's is a 140-store chain with their nearest store in Las Vegas.
Famous Dave's had hands down the best meat of the four places I tried. The hickory flavor was just right and it had a flaky texture. The ribs fell apart in my mouth. That's a strong plus.
They offer two kinds of sauce, both tomato based. The pineaapple-molasses was so so, but the cayenne-based sauce rocked. It was my favorite sauce of all four places. It had some zip but it wasn't too hot. Just right.
Second favorite was Texas Thunder. The taste of this meat was great. My biggest gripe was that it was too chewy. They literally took it off the flat frying surface (I'd call it a grill but it's all steel, no serrations so it might sound confusion), cut it up and gave it to me. It almost seemed undercooked. It didn't have the slow-cooked texture of Famous Dave's. They also had two sauces. The spicy sauce was the better of the two. It had some zip. The regular sauce was too sweet for me.
My Number 3 place was Desperado's. The ribs were meaty and had better texture than Texas Thunder, but just didn't have the flavor. They had three sauces. The original didn't had a vinegar overkill, or something like vinegar. The sweet and smoky was the best of the three and had a nice hickory flavor to it. The hot sauce was the third choice. Initially there's a strong taste of ketchup, and then it's scorchingly hot. So hot that's all you taste. I had to wait several minutes for my palate to return to normal. If you like hot sauce, this is the one for you. Ketchup and hot sauce isn't what I like with ribs.
The fourth place, and the only one I wouldn't return to, was Porky N Beans. In addition to pork ribs they advertise big beef ribs and what they call their world famous pulled pork sandwich. I asked the lady behind the counter which to try if I was only going to try one. She said the pulled porked sandwich, so that's what I got. This is the only note I wrote down for the sandwich: Bleh!
The pork had nice texture but the bland flavor of tofu. I don't know if it was the first day and they really hadn't hit their stride. The sauce had little flavor as well. I wanted to run over to Famous Dave's and put some of their hot sauce on it.
Well, since Steve did the west side, I decided to devote my lunch hour to the East side. I did not venture any further west than the Nugget, and I snagged the last parking spot at the city lot....I got samplers at each place, requesting sauce on the side. Here are my reports:
1. The Australian Barbque place (forget the exact name): Ribs were a little chewy, and tasted heavily of vinegar. But the "extra hot" sauce they had out on the table was wonderful...It had a nice kick but was not overly spicy despite the warnings. This was my favorite sauce, by far...
2. Johnson's: The ribs were a little fatty (baby back type) but the meat was tender and had a nice hikory smoke flavor. Their "regular" sauce is plenty spicy with a nice kick. Their "extra hot" sauce tastes like pure cayenne and was too hot even for this spice lover -- yuck!
3.BarbQue Company from Phoenix: These may have been among the best tasting ribs...but the meat was a little dry. Their "sweet heat" sauce was great and had a nice kick.
4. Sweet Meat: Their ribs were my favorite: tender and not fatty, tasting only of pure pork and hickory smoke and nothing else to adulterate them. Unfortunately, I didn't like their sauces: I could taste absolutely NO difference between the "mild" and the "hot" sauce: both tasted like sugar and vinegar with red dye.
My vote: get the Sweet Meat ribs and some Aussie "extra hot" sauce to go with them, and enjoy! Wish I could have tasted more, but four samplers was all my stomach AND my pocketbook could have handled. I washed it all down with some of the homemade lemonade from one of the stands; I wish it wasn't quite as sweet....