SORRY, DOODERS, Burger Week 2016 is over. Many of you may be reaching for the kale salad, or doing a juice cleanse. But last week’s sort of indulgence requires tapering... or even doubling down.
I bring you the beef rib. It’s a Texas barbecue staple—a glorious brontosaurus-sized bone wrapped in smoky meat—that’s not easy to track down in Portland. A beef rib is easily the most Instagram-able piece of meat out there. I dare you to not double-tap on the image of a single rib dominating a platter like Dikembe Mutombo against a team of kindergartners.
The beef rib has marbling throughout that has the perfect meat-to-fat ratio when done correctly. Despite this, it can take some sleuthing to find one of these beauties, mostly because many pitmasters can’t make much money on them. Their very beefiness hogs up space in the smoker, the meat itself is spendy, and their size varies hugely, meaning owners can take a loss on the whole enterprise. (Typically, one rib is between one and two pounds and easily feeds two people with sides.)
Still, if you’re going to do proper barbecue, we highly suggest at least running a once-a-week special. Matt Vicedomini, the phenom running Matt’s BBQ cart on NE MLK, offers his version every Saturday for $20 a pound. He held up a rack on a recent Saturday, showing how the last rib had hardly any meat on it. He says he sells those for $5, or just gives them away—it’s a problem he never faces when selling more economical pork ribs.
“I don’t mind selling a couple of racks of beef ribs at cost if it gets people excited to come to the cart,” Vicedomini says. “So I’ll have them on as long as people keep buying them.”
Judging by the number of people gnawing at the bone with two hands for support, it seems like he’s going to have to keep them on forever. Here’s our suggestion for a sweet six days of beef ribs, followed by a day of rest for health purposes.
On a night when many restaurants are closed, this beef rib shines like a meaty beacon—on special Mondays only for $12 a pound. It’s got just enough rub that it doesn’t overwhelm the house barbecue sauce that’s oh-so-tasty on this (and all Podnah’s) meat. Hope that broccoli casserole and cabbage with bacon are also on special and get to eatin’.
1625 NE Killingsworth, podnahspit.com
Sweet Street BBQ
I was waiting to get food from another cart when the owner of Sweet Street, Wayne Streeter, opened his smoker to brush his ribs with his house-made sweet and savory sauce. About 20 minutes later, he pulled them out and carried a heaping platter away. I followed my nose and ordered second dinner right there. Streeter says he gets his ribs from Gartner’s, because they’re the meatiest. We got a hefty half-rack for $16 (those who want sauce application control should definitely order it on the side).
1505 NE Alberta
Cannon’s Rib Express
Cannon’s beef ribs are the weakest on the schedule. (Reo’s Ribs beef spareribs were cut for being too dry, and also not of the rib variety that we’re discussing here.) But Cannon’s are also the cheapest and heftiest of all the options: a full box o’ ribs with two sides for $15. They had a nice smoky flavor, but were the chewiest we tried, with an inedible layer of membrane that required peeling.
5410 NE 33rd, cannonsribexpress.com
Russell Street Bar-B-Que
Russell Street makes the best beef ribs that are also on the menu daily. There’s a hot pink ring of smoke, and the meat is tender enough to clear off the bone with the right amount of tug. At $25, the price tag seems a bit high, but it’s a half rack of beefy goodness with two sides, served any damn day you want ’em.
325 NE Russell, russellstreetbbq.com
Botto’s owner, Darren, calls beef ribs part of the “holy trinity” of Texas barbecue, along with beef brisket and sausages. Every Friday from his new cart behind a chainlink fence in industrial Northwest Portland, Botto is serving gorgeous, smoky, pepper-crusted beef ribs for $20 a pound. They’re tender, massive, and textbook. Hallelujah.
2204 NW Roosevelt, twitter.com/bottobbq
Matt serves his ribs ($20 a pound) absolutely coated in smoke-darkened dry rub, a blend of salt, pepper, and spices that offset the richness of the beef. As I snapped pics, I noticed at least two other people doing the same. They’re only available on Saturdays, and only until they (inevitably) sell out.
4709 NE MLK, mattsbbqpdx.com