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Ribster vs. Red Hot & Blue

  • s

Was watching a show on BBQ with the kid this week when both started screaming that they wanted BBQ. So on Saturday, I'm going to give mom time off and I'm taking kids to BBQ. I was thinking Ribster's in Annandale or RHB (which I've gone to a lot).

I know exactly what to expect at RHB but how is Ribsters? Any insight would be appreciated.


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  1. Ribster's is one of our absolutely long-term favorites in this world!

    I've always gone long for either their prime rib or their beef ribs, and the prime rib, for as sensational as it is, comes in a pale second to the beef ribs, which have never been less than excellent. I'm no fan of pork ribs, so my expertise is limited to the beef, but I am told by everyone else that their ribs are out of this world.

    Great sides, by the way, especially the fries, and if you really want to get a laugh, ask what the vegetable of the day is - it's usually "mixed vegetables in a can." That's about right, don't you think?

    At the same time, keep in mind it's quite the family place. You'll see, on Sunday afternoons, large groups of families in all age ranges, just come from church, having their traditional Sunday dinner. It's just great.

    You're going to have a wonderful dining experience. I do hope it's as good for you as I am making it out to be, but Ribster's is like part of our family.

    Enjoy .................

      1. Another winner, according to friends and family who love the traditional ribs. I can't say, but I do know their sauces and sides are terrific. I'd say Rockland's for real barbeque, but Ribster's for excellent barbeque and the true dining experience of a Southern joint.

        I gotta get myself some Rockland's. They're just down the road here ...........

        2 Replies
        1. re: Atlantis

          And they are going to be reopening in Arlington soon I hear.

          1. re: jpschust


            Says here they're opening in March on Washington Blvd. right across from the Giant. Not bad at all, but we're still just up the road from the Quaker Lane location, which is wonderful.

            I still love the beef ribs at Ribster's, though...........

        2. I think Famous Dave's bbq beats Red, Hot & Blue any day...RH&B has gone down hill in the past couple of years. Ribster's just sounds ridiculous to me so I will probably never go...so take the advice of other's that posted before me. However...if you are truly looking for great ribs then I would say go to Boulevard Wood Grill in Clarendon...they have the BEST woodgrilled molasses & rum brushed baby-back ribs I have ever tasted and I lived in Alabama for 4 years and never had ribs this good (not even at Dreamland BBQ)!

          1. Okay, enough talk about family-friendly barbecue in clean, politie suburban neighborhoods. Where can you find REAL barbecue around here? I mean places that are in frequent risk of health dept shutdown, where the building has been rebuilt several times because the shack keeps burning down when the fire in the open pit gets out of control. Where the owner is a grouchy old guy (grouchy because he's been up all night watching over a slowly roasting pig) who was a master sergeant cook in the Army. Where the only "side" is a couple slices of Wonderbread and you have to bring your own beer. Where the seating consists of overturned paint buckets pulled up against a sheet of plywood on two sawhorses. Red Hot and Blue? Rocklands? Ribsters? Puh-leeze. Why not add Chilis and Applbees? (But in the interests of science, I will check out AlliantK's recommendation in Clarendon.)

            6 Replies
            1. re: Gonzocook

              The places you seek don't exist in great abundance (or maybe at all) around here, and certainly not in the city or suburban areas. That said, Smoky Hollow in Howard Country serves up very good authentic Q., although it doesn't look the part (it's in a random strip mall, not a broken down shack, although it *is* in the middle of nowhere).

              I'd be extremely skeptical of the Famous Dave's rec, btw. It isn't very good.

              1. re: Gonzocook

                Well, since you've been sucked into believing that old chestnut about how 'que places are supposed to look, there's always the good old Dixie Pig down on Powhatan in Alexandria. You'll get all sorts of atmosphere,especially if you like Italian restaurants.......

                1225 Powhatan St
                Alexandria, VA 22314-1305
                Phone: 703-836-0605

                1. re: Gonzocook

                  There used to be a place just like that in Baltimore called Leon's Pig Pen. Actual health dept shutdowns, horrible neighborhood (even by Balto standards), Wonderbread on the side, owner was a bad man with a long rap sheet, etc. I used to go for takeout with my college gf -- she would run in for the food while I waited with the car running.

                  But it's long gone. Finally shut down for good by either the cops or the health inspectors, I don't remember which (it's been over 20 years).

                  Ahh memories. This place would have tested the mettle of you cue loving hounds.

                  1. re: Gonzocook

                    For chopped pork shoulder, you should head to the Mighty Midget in Leesburg, VA. As good as it gets and will have enough of the requisite vibe you are seeking. They also have ribs, of which they always run out, so you have to get there early enough or call and tell them you're coming from afar and ask if they will hold some for you. But I think they take second place to the sandwich.

                    1. re: Steve

                      Those venturing to the Mighty Midget for the first time should note that there's no indoor seating. It's just a kitchen and counter, in what is alleged to be the nose from a World War II vintage bomber. There are a few picnic tables for al fresco dining. It's been featured in a Zippy the Pinhead strip: http://zippythepinhead.com/Merchant2/...

                      On a sad note, I read in one of the local fishwraps last week that the young child of the Mighty Midget proprietors is suffering from a rare form of leukemia, so they could surely use some strong support from the chowhound community.

                  2. Run down shack, roof caving in, paint buckets and plywood.......go to Chubby's. Chubby's has allot of what you're looking for. It's a bit of a drive from the city but IMO well worth the trip. I've never been dissapointed.

                    Chubby's is located just of RT15N in Emmitsburg, MD. You really can't miss it.

                    1. You don't need to teach your kids to be BBQ snobs at an early age, just get them some tasty food that's different from anything that McDonald's (or China Star, if you're that kind of a family) serves. Ribsters used to be one of my favorites but it's been several years since I've gone there. Based on reports here, I probably should revisit. I'm not a big fan of beef ribs so I always had their pork.

                      I migrated to RH&B when they first opened because I liked the idea (not that I"m a Republican) that it was started by some Washington newcomers who couldn't find their home comfort food near by and had enough money to buy everything they needed including training from a cook from Corky's BBQ in Memphis, one of the places that usually makes it into the "Classic BBQ" books. I've eaten at Corky's and found RH&B to be a reasonable recreation, and I like the background music.

                      But like so many fairly long established restaurants, RH&B has shifted somewhat over the years. The original investors are, of course, long gone, they franchise operations, and some are more variable than others. I can depend on reliable ribs at the Express in Falls Church and since it's only 5 minutes from my house, it gets most of my business when I need a BBQ fix. But the pulled pork there has never been as good as at the original place, but then neither is it as good as it used to be there either.

                      I go to the Oakton Famous Dave's frequently witih some friends from Vienna and on occasion I've had some of the best ribs I've ever had there - everything has been just right. But most of the time they're pretty much on par with RH&B.

                      A more serious southern BBQ place is Dixie Bones in Woodbridge, but for a kid's first taste, I don't think you'd be ruining them with one of the more grentrified places. Unless you have unusual kids, they're likely to prefer the sweeter sauces over the thin and peppery sauces that go best with Dixie Bones' style.

                      But taste in BBQ (and even interpretation of the definition) is very personal, so don't expect a very strong majority vote for any place around here. My standards change depending on whether I'm in Kansas City, Memphis, or Falls Church.

                      1. Went to Ribster's today. The place is very family friendly. The wait staff and the manager were super attentive. It really is a hold over from Annandale past. Not sure how long it has been there but I don't ever remember driving down Little River Turnpike and not seeing it.

                        Kids had Chicken Fingers and a hamburger. It came with a vegie and fries on the side. The fries were of the round smiley face McCain potato things. Not real fries but the kids love them. The vegies which was corn on the cob and brocolli were way over cooked (mushy) but actually that is how my kids like them (go figure). Their meal also came with milk and a plate of ice cream all for $3.99.

                        I got the beef ribs and my wife got the baby back ribs. The beef ribs could have been a bit more meaty but it was very tender. No trace of smoke. The baby back ribs was half a rack (wet). Again, no trace of smoke. The sauces were of the tomato/molassas variety (ala KC masterpeice). Little too sweet for me. The sides of fries were really good (not greasy and not overly salted). My wife got corn on the cobb (see above). I got BBQ beans. The baked beans I'm sure were from a can but I think they "cut it" with some meat and some hot sauce. It has this delayed kick. It was outstanding. Easily the best thing on the plate. The cost of each dish was $8.99.

                        This in no way is the best BBQ I've had even in NOVA. However, the service was nice, the people were very friendly and accomodating and the food value was great. I would go back definitely. Fun and relaxing.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Soup

                          I'm so glad you went, but I'm sorry my recommendation for the beef ribs didn't match your experience. Maybe a thin batch of beef ribs came in, because I've always had more than I could eat - and I can pack it away if it's meat! As for no smoky flavor on the ribs, I truly don't understand that. But, if the other factors were there, and you and your family had a good time - too bad you missed the "mixed vegetables" - then I'm glad you went and glad I put my two cents' worth in.

                          Yeah, it's a down-home, friendly, very accommodating place where everyone - regardless of age, gender, race - is made to feel comfortable all the time.

                          And, I forgot to mention, I LOVE their cole slaw.

                        2. Ribsters has definitely been there for a long time. I remember when they opened, but it's hard to place just when that was, probably late 1967 or thereabouts. Back then, the waitresses wore costumes with really short skirts, decorated so that it looked like ruffled panties were showing. And they had an all-you-can-eat night. That's how old the place is. ;)

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: MikeR

                            As I recall, the waitresses still wear the tiny skirts and the black or fishnet stockings. It's such a dinosaur of a place, you have to love it. Totally un-PC and unapologetic about any of it.

                            An all-you-can-eat night???? Oh, how I wish I'd been around then. I just remember it from 1972, so you've got me there.

                            1. re: MikeR

                              FYI- and a bit of restaurant trivia. The ORIGINAL "Ribster's" was H.I. RIBSTER'S...[the H.I. stood for Hogates International ] It was located on the Hogate's Waterfront site in D.C. for outdoor and indoor dining...and was to the left of the seafood restaurant [though all under one roof]. The Ribster's in Annandale originally had the H.I. in front of it...not sure whether it does now. Obviously since Hogates' itself has morphed into something new/different so has its previous holdings. Ribsters was once just plain excellent ALL the time...not so in my opinion, now.

                              1. re: sunni

                                I didn't know what the H.I. stood for, but the Ribster's on the SW waterfront came later than the Annandale one. The one in Annandale, as far as the only remaining one, was always H.I. Ribsters but that was the day when it was pretty common for restaurants to be named with two initials (that usually actually meant nothing).

                            2. Out of the 2 you mention, I'd pick RH&B over Ribster's any day. Ribster's is old and there is likely to be food under the table or between the seats cushions from the first year they were open. If you order carry out, check EVERYTHING before you leave. They pack orders worse than KFC. The food is not bad, and the people are nice. But that doesn't make it worth it. Try somewhere else.