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Rotary Ribfests In Ontario - Who has the best ribs?

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It seems the Rotary ribfest has been doing their annual circuit again this year and they'll be in Oshawa on Sept 10, 11 and 12.

Did you attend one of the ribfests? If so, who had the best ribs?

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  1. I always go straight to Camp 31. My wife is from Alabama so Camp 31 is the style she grew up with and has to have. If their lineup is too long, look for Thirsty Cactus which is the same people. (you'll see their staffers run back and forth between the two trailers) Usually TC's lineup is 1/2 as long as C31 and yet it's the exact same food! I'll definitely be at Oshawa Fest tomorrow.

    I usually get the 1/2 rack (with the coupon in the paper, only valid on Friday) to eat there, and buy 1 or 2 pounds of pulled pork to take home and stick in the freezer for later.

    Other advice for the Oshawa Fest -- use the back parking lot behind the kiddie rides. That way you don't have to run the gauntlet of the pushy snake-oil salesmen on your way to/from the food (and it's a much shorter walk). My little secret to all the hounds :-) A lot of the out-of-towners fill up the main lots up front while there are still empty spaces in the back lot.

    1. Too bad Carolina Rib King hasn't attended in the last couple years. They were by far the best IMO

      1. If you see Uncle Sam's from Albuquerque, best pass it by. Mushy meat, not well spiced,no smoke flavour. I should have known the short line-up would come back to haunt me.

        1. Didn't make it to any of the Rotary Ribfest locations, but my wife and I did go to the Peterborough Ribfest on the Friday night back in July. Boss Hog's (from London), Crabby's BBQ Shack (London), Fat Albert's BBQ Pit, Crazy Canuck Smoker (London / Port Dover), Jack the Ribber, and RARE - a local restaurant were there.

          We immediately picked up a half rack from each place and (along with a sudsy beverage or two) proceeded to do a head to head taste test. All were quite good and all had nicely balanced sauces. We did decide Fat Albert's had the best sauce and Crabby BBQ Shack had the best ribs overall (theirs had come right out of the smoker - mmmmm smoke).

          We went back on Sunday to pick up more ribs from our "winners", and couldn't even think of ribs again for a month (OK, maybe a couple of weeks).

          2 Replies
          1. re: PoppiYYZ

            So we swung by the Oshawa Ribfest for lunch on Saturday. Decided to try a new ribber this year...Horn Dawgs Smokin' BBQ. They'd just come off a "Best Sauce" win in Burlington so we were keen to check them out. Ribs are wood smoked then finished on a charcoal grill. Hubby and I shared one rack of ribs and one pulled pork sandwich. Both were excellent. Nice smokey flavour, tender, juicy meat and I have to say, the sauce really was delicious. I would normally tell you that I don't like my meat over-sauced but this was an exception, I wished I had more sauce for that delicious pulled pork sandwich. I'd highly recommend these guys. I'll be interested to see if they rec'd any medals. Apparently they'll be in Milton for a fall fair soon in case any Chowhounds are interested.

            1. re: Breadcrumbs

              Well, what a difference a year makes! The Rotary Ribfest swung by the Shwiggly this weekend and of course we headed over to see what smokey delights were on offer.

              It seemed like the usual round of ribbers w the exception of Blazin' BBQ which we didn't remember from years past. At first we were disappointed as we didn't see last years "judge's Choice" winner, the Thirsty Cactus however we then saw a sign indicating that they'd re-branded as "Sticky Fingers".

              We decided on a full rack from our personal favourite from last year, Hawgs Gone Wild and another full rack from Sticky Fingers since we regretted never having tried them in the past and, they were last years winner. They also had signs up for recent 1st Place victories at ribfests in the US and, the Pickering Ribfest.

              Happy to report that we loved Sticky Fingers Ribs. They smoke their ribs over wood and then finish over propane (which they almost seemed apologetic about). Nevertheless, the meat was tender, juicy and the smoky flavour permeated the meat right to the bone. The meat was perfectly pink towards the edges and not too saucy yet super-flavourful with the right balance of sweet and savoury. The only negative about this spot was the overly-soused, overly-tanned sauce-taster-cum-spokesmodel who was "working the lineup" offering samples of their sauce and, his own bad singing, yelping and over-the-top antics. A little intimidating at an otherwise light, fun event.

              As for Hawgs Gone Wild, what a disappointment. In stark contrast to last year's experience, this time around we found their ribs (although abundant) to be tough, sauced too lightly and, far too fatty and porky. I suspect that they sacrificed their smoking time to ensure they met the demand of the masses lining up to sample their wares. What a shame. The meat was so tough and flavourless. After 2 ribs we tossed the rest.

              Other info of note: this year a full rack of ribs was $22 and this gets you nothing but ribs...no side dishes. Sadly we didn't see newcomer "Jeff' Fries" until we'd already purchased fries elsewhere. This vendor's fries looked fabulous, crisp and made to order. Sadly we purchased our fries from a vendor that had 2 booths (sadly I forget their name) and sold fries, bloomin onions and heaped freshly fried potato chips. We opted for the "bucket" of Jersey Fries that I'd strongly recommend folks avoid at all costs. For $10 you get a plastic bucket with 10 oz of greasy, soggy fresh cut potatoes fried in too cool oil then heaped into a bucket and topped w a canned cheese sauce (poured with a very light hand), a "squirt" of sour cream, dried parsley and faux bacon bits. These were truly horrible and, a mushy, greasy, inedible mess. The only thing worse than the fries was the woman manning the cash at their booth on the same side as the ribbers. She was unapologetically and abrasively advising patrons who had stood in line for 10+ minutes that they ran out of "buckets" In hindsight it would have been a blessing and a bargain to have only spent $8 for the small tray of the same, nasty Jersey Fries we then spent another 10 minutes and $2 more lining up for at their other booth.

          2. A final update on the Oshawa Ribfest. The winners were:

            Judge's Choice - Best Overall Ribber: Thirsty Cactus

            Peoples Choice:

            Sauce: 1st: Billy Bones, 2nd: Horn Dawgs
            Ribs: 1st: Billy Bones, 2nd: Horn Dawgs

            2 Replies
            1. re: Breadcrumbs

              I agree with the Judge's Choice. Thirsty Cactus gave me the first rack of ribs that I actually enjoyed at any of the Ribfests this year!

              1. re: swissmissy

                You know, I don't think we've ever tried them but they'll definitely be on the list for next year.