Ribs & Burgers
Lamb Slab with Chips
Pork Bullets with Chips and Slaw
Original Burger – Midwestern grain-fed beef, grilled, basted and served on a sesame bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, dill pickles and BBQ & pink sauces
Kid Friendly Maple Bacon Doughnut – Vanilla Ice Cream, doughnut, bacon, maple syrup / Kid Friendly Pecan Banana Split – Vanilla Ice Cream, Godiva caramel, banana, pecans / Kid Friendly Birthday Cake – Vanilla Ice Cream, milk, sprinkles
Invited in by Public Relations while the Australian Team was still in town working on issues related to food, service, and design it was just prior to 5:00pm that a friend and I approached Downtown Summerlin’s Ribs & Burgers, and with a line of perhaps twenty snaking out the front door our first impression was one echoed by several previous visitors – pure chaos, several potential patrons taking a pass while we actively had to seek out our liaison, a three person process that took us through two persons who seemingly had no clue what was going on.
Described (more than once) as a quick casual concept, the focus on quality food without the ‘fine dining’ feel, Ribs & Burgers acts as if their setup is something unfamiliar despite locations such as MTO Café offering the exact same thing, but by shortening the distance from entrance to counter while servers still in-training struggle with a rather limited menu the result is one with peculiar delays and prolonged lingering – the diner eventually receiving a numbered bucket and left to find themselves a seat while food is prepared.
Spending most of the early visit speaking to Mona, a pleasant brand spokeswoman clearly excited by the prospect of brining the high quality concept to US Shores, it was perhaps a ten minute wait between ordering and receiving our food and having heard so much about the braising process, special sauce, and sourcing of meat and produce it was with high expectations that first bites of ‘pork bullets’ were enjoyed – each bite not exactly ‘falling off the bone’ tender, but decidedly well prepared with nuances of sweetness rounded out by several sorts of spice.
Having received no water on order, and only two napkins for a meal that was obviously quite likely to be messy, it was on request that the first was delivered while the second never appeared and allowing for the fact that our order continued to arrive as readied from the kitchen with only one mistaken item appearing unannounced it was onward to the burger, ‘chips’, and onion straws that our dining commenced, the fries completely forgettable and really no better than those from the Golden Arches while the piled-high burger and crispy onions were indeed quite good, the former featuring a great grind beneath a good sear while the latter were surprisingly dainty and entirely greaseless with plenty of natural flavor to be found.
Moving onward to the most intriguing item, the novelty of lamb ribs not lost on someone who loves lamb and finds it far underrepresented on menus here in the States, suffice it to say that the meat’s natural flavor was not overwhelmed in the least by the braise or the baste and although the provided knife was barely capable of sawing through connective tissue adjoining the rack a little elbow grease proved well worth the effort, each saporous bite offering a reason to return even when taking into account the somewhat sizable tab for something served in a ‘quick, casual’ space.
Rounding out the evening with a trio of shakes, at this point a ‘must’ for any place serving burgers in the 702, we were told by the man up front that the team had recently stopped using gelato from Messina as they wanted something more ‘thick and rich,’ but whether an effect of temperature, prep time, or our decision to eschew alcohol only the Pecan Banana Split proved truly memorable in texture or taste – the birthday cake thin and milky with sprinkles clogging the straw while the Maple Bacon Donut tasted mostly like creamy Log Cabin syrup without a bit of pork or smoke to be found.
TWO AND A HALF STARS: Still finding their footing in terms of service and structure while already serving up some rather excellent ‘American Classics,’ no matter where the concept hails from, it will be interesting to see how Ribs & Burgers does as other similar speed locations with more local recognition open nearby at a lower price point. Certainly offering something a little different, with high quality ingredients readily apparent, it will require a few tweaks to make Ribs & Burgers really ‘work,’ but if these things can get dialed in I’ve no doubt the concept could succeed in several large markets nationwide.
RECOMMENDED: Lamb Ribs, Onion Straws.
AVOID: Birthday Cake Shake, Chips, Expectations of water refills/utensils/share plates/napkins delivered in a timely fashion.
TIP: While service still needs work, and skimping on napkins seems entirely nonsensical for a place serving ribs at this price, it bears mention that Ribs & Burgers does offer a sink with soap at the center of the restaurant for those looking to clean up…or to refill their own glasses with luke-warm water without ice.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor