$29 and Under: Shane’s Rib Shack unpretentious, offers affordable fare

Shane’s Rib Shack, among the latest in the raft of franchise restaurants opening in the Capital Regi
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Shane’s Rib Shack, among the latest in the raft of franchise restaurants opening in the Capital Region, was still in a bit of shakedown mode when we visited for lunch the other day.

They’d run out of baked beans, for example, and takeout menus. And the men’s room, where the waste bin was overflowing with used paper towels, lived up to Shane’s motto, “It’s gonna get messy.”

Shane’s Rib Shack

WHERE: Shops at Village Plaza, 7 Southside Drive, Clifton Park. Phone 615-0555.

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

HOW MUCH: $22.81

MORE INFO: Handicapped accessible. MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express accepted. Children’s menu available.

The food was good, unpretentious and fairly straightforward fare: barbecued wings, chicken, pulled pork and ribs. It wasn’t memorable, however, like the barbecue one finds at Capital Q Smokehouse in Albany or Chico’s in Guilderland.

On the other hand, it was very inexpensive.

There were three of us — one of them being slightly under age 2 — and we all had lunch for a grand total of $22.81, tax and tip included. That makes Shane’s a great place for a workday lunch or a family outing, even when you’re trying to watch the purse strings.

Popular choice

I ordered one of Shane’s more popular sandwiches, the “Big Dad,” pulled pork piled high between thick slabs of toasted bread ($5.99) and turned it into a full meal for another $1.99, which entitled me to a side dish and a drink. I tried to order the baked beans, but as I noted, no beans this day. (How can a place that calls itself a rib shack run out of baked beans?)

On a whim, I ordered the Brunswick Stew for my side. It was a sweet and spicy soup with lots of corn and peppers and the occasional hint of meat. It was more like a warmed-up relish than stew, something that might have tasted good poured over my pulled pork sandwich.

My adult lunch guest ordered the Smothered Pork sandwich ($5.49 or $7.48 with drink and side dish). His side dish choice was coleslaw, which was unfortunate because his piled-high pork sandwich was topped with a mound of the very same slaw. His sandwich was served on a big bun.

The pork in both sandwiches was tender and flavorful but not warmed up enough. The idea of pulled pork on a bun with coleslaw on top is to get contrasting flavors, textures and temperatures, and that doesn’t work if the pork is barely above room temperature.

There are three kinds of sauces available for your meat — the house barbecue, which is quite good, a spicy-sweet dark red sauce; a vinegary sauce; and a sauce with a bit of sweetness and a nice spicy-hot kick, which was my favorite. The sauces are gluten-free, by the way.

Family place

The Clifton Park Shane’s Rib Shack, which is soon to be followed by a Colonie outlet and others, was buzzing with activity the afternoon we visited, and there were lots of families with children having lunch.

We were among them. In fact, we were three generations of family — father, son Josh and 22-month-old Jonah, who was quite taken with the TV sets mounted up near the high ceiling. He was even more taken with the mac and cheese and french fries that we ordered for him off the children’s menu.

The restaurant is laid out in a country, casual way to resemble a backyard barbecue. There are big rolls of paper towels on each table, a reminder that good barbecue is messy business. You can also sit outside on a small patio.

You order your meal off a big menu board when you first come in, then get a number and wait for your food to be delivered to your table. Our service was friendly and reasonably fast.

The menu is not extensive, but you can find something to interest you. Sandwich choices include a smoked chicken salad. You can also order plates of various combinations of smoked meats like baby back ribs, chicken wings and chicken tenders, and there’s also a chicken tender sandwich. Platter-size entrees of two or four racks of ribs or 20 or 40 chicken tenders or wings with ranch or blue cheese dressing and celery sticks also are available along with sides.

Side dishes include cornbread, collard greens, Brunswick Stew, baked beans, macaroni and cheese and corn on the cob.

And if you’re not heading for the office, as I was, you might want to wash it down with a cold beer, which is also available.

NAPKIN NOTES

Brunswick Stew is a dish of the South and — and this will surprise you — there is controversy about its origin. The original dish, dating from the late 1800s, probably contained squirrel meat, it’s said. Epicurious.com, where you can find lots of interesting recipes and food history facts, says it originated in Virginia, and offers a modern version containing chicken, lima beans, corn, potatoes and tomatoes. It’s really a thick soup and it’s traditionally served with cornbread.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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