Visited the Rib Cage on annual baseball trip. Traffic coming to the Rib Cage was terrible. Upon parking (metered), we went to the front of the restaurant and immediately thought “bar” more than restaurant. The bar itself was rather dark, low ceilings, a general “hole in the wall” type of place, as described in another review here. The tables in the back room were wood with paper rolled on for easier cleanup. There was no one in the place except someone having a drink at the bar, not a rousing endorsement for the food. We actually thought about leaving, but had driven a half hour to try the BBQ.
Decision to stay was wise. Mid-to-late afternoon is a great time to come. We were told by several locals that the place is jam-packed by 8PM. Our beers were reasonably priced (super happy hour pricing 3-6) and reached us quickly, served by a smiling waitress who made several suggestions.
What we ordered: An order of brisket, an orders of wings, and two racks of ribs. At the suggestion of the waitress, we tried the BBQ sauce and the Carolina mustard. The St. Louis ribs were fall-off-the-bone, well smoked, just great meat. The ribs were completely cooked, fat and juicy. We are always searching for good brisket, not so easy to find so far east. This ranked up there with Chaps in Baltimore as the best we’ve had.
The sides: The onion rings with wasabi sauce are fantastic, obviously homemade rather than yanked out of a bag in the freezer. Ditto the bourbon baked beans, a really neat mix of beans with the sweet BBQ off-setting the acidity of the bourbon. I like Cole Slaw on my BBQ, I found this adequate but way too saucy; however, several of my mates liked it very much. I am not an eater of greens, but two in our party ate them and raved, finally ordering another order to go for later (hint, they don’t heat up well in a hotel microwave). Finally, we all had the corn-on-the-cob and agreed corn is corn, but this was in-season and tasty.
We sent our compliments to the chef, who came out and talked to us and explain a lot about how his BBQ was made. Was this Mr. Hill? I have no idea. But he was happy, humble, and seemed to really like talking about his craft. We peaked through the cracks in the fence of the backyard at the smoking area. Wood piled a mile-high.
We were so impressed with this BBQ that when traveling from the R&R HoF to Akron for a Zips game the next night, instead of eating in Akron we went out of our way to order racks of ribs, which we ate tailgating at the Akron ballpark. If you’re going for ambience in Cleveland, stick with something like Fatheads. If you’re like us and are willing to go deep for real local food, this is the real deal. Well done, Mr. Hill!
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