Most ideas for restaurants to review are suggested by customers who had a positive experience at the venue. Occasionally the choices materialize in a more serendipitous manner. Today’s review is of the second variety.
We had just purchased a dress suit for my tablemate, and since it was the first one he had acquired in a very long time, we were in a celebratory mood. We were also hungry. On the corner of a strip of assorted stores and restaurants was Shane’s Rib Shack. Though I was unfamiliar with the name, the thought of ribs sped up my otherwise slow gait.
Occasionally, one stumbles upon a tiny gem tucked away in a giant mall. As always, I was optimistic. It was several minutes before anyone acknowledged our presence. We were eventually greeted by a young lady behind the counter where one orders food. On the wall above and behind the counter were a series of boards announcing the various offerings, from individual orders to full plates and combinations.
Katie, the counter girl, asked us if we were ready to order. The number and arrangement of items made speed reading impossible. “Do you have a printed menu?” I asked. “No but you can get it online at our website,” Katie responded. Unfortunately, the suggestion was not helpful at that time.
John opted for the Shack Sampler Plate (a quarter rack of baby back ribs, two chicken tenders and a quarter pound of barbecued pork or chicken) for $12.99, and a serve yourself fountain beverage for $1.99. I chose the Beef Brisket Plate for $10.99, which included two sides and Texas toast (thick cut white bread toasted on one side). John chose sides of French fries and deep-fried okra, while I selected baked beans and mac & cheese.
Described on Shane’s website as “fast casual barbecue,” our food was delivered by Katie in about 10 minutes. “Plates” were actually plastic baskets lined with paper bearing the Moe’s Southwestern Grill logo. Upon checking online I learned that both Moe’s and Shane’s are owned, along with several other venues, by Raving Brands.
John described the flavor of the ribs as “rich and tomato-y.” He noted the tenders and pulled pork were flavorful, although I noticed he used extra barbecue sauce (made from Grandfather “Big Dad’s” 50-year-old secret recipe) to accentuate the flavor.
My sliced brisket was ample but lukewarm and on the dry side. Secret barbecue sauce to the rescue! Although Shane’s website promises everything is made in-house, the baked beans were closer to canned and the mac & cheese was more akin to Mac and the well-known orange cheese sauce. Both sides, however, were served piping hot.
A photo hanging over my head when I ordered had shown a tempting picture of smoked chicken wings ($5.99) and so I hastily added that to my order. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the six small wings were not. They were dry with very little taste. Once again, “Big Dad’s” sauce saved the day.
I gazed around the restaurant while we were dining. About 20 red-checkered-clothed booths and tables filled the room. Old-fashioned wooden chairs of faded red, white and green circled the tables. Walls were covered with signs of various sizes, hosting comments like “Vegetarian is an old Indian word that means bad hunter.” The clever saying caused me to take note of the menu, which featured mostly beef, pork and chicken. Of the few vegetables listed on the menu, most were starchy.
Two desserts were available and reasonably priced: homemade peach cobbler ($1.99) and a brownie ($1.49). Neither of us chose to order a sweet finish to the meal.
John summarized the essence of Shane’s Rib Shack in this manner: “It is a variation of fast food similar to dining on ribs in a burger chain.” He also noted that as a customer, he felt relatively unimportant. He went so far as to conclude that it was a place to buy and consume food, but it was less like a restaurant and more like a cafeteria. Strong words for an otherwise gentle man.
To which I added, to enjoy great food, whether it be fancy or modest, one must dine at a restaurant where food and its preparation are a labor of love.
Shane Thompson’s Rib Shack evolved from a modest tin-roofed building without air-conditioning off Highway 155 in rural Georgia. He theorized, “You can take a mom-and-pop concept and scale it without losing its integrity.” I disagree.
Shane’s Rib Shack
WHERE: 7 Southside Drive, Clifton Park NY 12065, (518) 515-0555, http://www.shanesribshack.com/cliftonpark/
WHEN: Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $31.96 for two people including one soft drink, but without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Accessible (restaurant is on the same level as the outdoor sidewalk), mall parking lot, all major credit cards accepted, daily specials, kids’ menu, takeout, catering