Hate onions? Put ketchup on your ketchup? We all have unique likes and dislikes, so when you hear about a new restaurant, whether it be from a foodie or someone who lives off of toaster pastries, you don’t know if their tastes align with your own. So, instead of reading a review from one source, take it from four members of our team. Even though we are woefully underqualified to review a restaurant, at least one of us will likely share some of your distinct tastes.
For this issue, the PressureLife crew visited The Rib Cage Smokehouse in Ohio City. After rewarding taste buds in Cleveland Heights since 2012, the barbecue restaurant recently opened a second location on W. 25th Street, looking to cater to customers on the West Side of town. Our ragtag crew of diners managed to stop in the day after the establishment opened to see if the meats could meet our expectations.
I’m going to preface this review by admitting that I’m not a huge fan of barbecue. I ordered two meats, brisket and wings, with two sides, collard greens and cheese mac. The wings and collards were dynamite, but my brisket was so chewy that three-quarters of my serving ended up in a napkin. To confirm my beef bubblegum, Alex took a bite and had a similar reaction. All our food was lukewarm except for Alex’s dish, which had some phenomenal red beans and rice. The Carolina Mustard Vinegar and Spicy Barbecue sauces were also delicious. I was quite disappointed with the quality of food since The Rib Cage has another location in Cleveland Heights. Still, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to the new location only being open for two days when we visited. I’ll give it a few months before I stop back.
Compared to the other diners in our group, I’m practically a carnivore. I’m a big fan of barbecue, so I was excited to try out The Rib Cage’s new location. After downing a few different types of meats, sides, and sauces, the whole experience turned out to be… fine, I guess. Like Jim, I also ordered a two-meat, two-side platter with brisket, pork rib tips, bourbon baked beans, and red beans and rice. Ultimately, the sides and the sauces—the house Carolina mustard vinegar and herb buffalo—were the stars of my plate. While my brisket wasn’t in the same state as Jim’s, I wouldn’t say it was anything special, either. The same went for the rib tips and a shared plated of baby back ribs. When dipped in the sauces, the meats were enjoyable, but it was mainly because they served as vessels for tasty flavors instead of standing out on their own.
I’m not a huge fan of barbeque, but am a fan of most food in general. Given that the Rib Cage was only open for two days, I expected that some kitchen kinks were bound to happen. However, some things, like cold food and lacking flavor, cannot be forgiven. My philly cheese steak was fine flavor-wise, but it was colder than room temp and served with a pile of lackluster, pointless fries. I wouldn’t go near the brisket on Jim’s plate after the faces he made, but I tried some of Alex’s and, while a bite was enough, I wasn’t completely upset. I was lucky enough to snag a wing, and they were delicious. They were probably best thing I put in my mouth during that whole meal. The sides were fine. I live for great side dishes, especially mac and cheese, but the Rib Cage’s cheese mac, cornbread, collard greens, slaw, and hushpuppies all left something to be desired. All in all, I had a great time with the crew and service was great, but I sadly would probably would never try and visit again.
Opening a restaurant is very difficult. I have lived through the experience a few times. New staff, fresh paint, angry Yelpers, it all adds up into a fun little ball of stress. That being said, barbecue spots should not serve cold flavorless meat no matter how new they are. I ordered a Polish girl, which is a Polish boy with pulled pork added into the mix as a topping. The smoked sausage was super delicious, but the pulled pork was barely present. Let’s focus on the positives, though. The Rib Cage nails sauces and sides. The red beans and rice were on par with Nashville, and the collard greens were cooked to perfection. The spicy barbecue sauce redeemed the rib tips that Alex ordered. Apparently the wings were awesome, but I wouldn’t know because Jim is terrible at sharing. Overall, our server was top notch and we had a fun dinner. It just wasn’t out of this world.