There really is no magic formula to determine which vendor I’m going to see on any given day. Yesterday, I walked the length of the ribfest before I settled on Bone Daddy’s. Today, I started at Elgin Street, and took in the second booth I saw, at Crabby’s BBQ Shack.
Crabby’s a long-time staple on the circuit, winning best ribs in Toronto for 12 consecutive years during one stretch. Oddly though, their Ottawa accolades are empty – and I wanted to see what the deal was.
The line wasn’t overwhelming, and I once again ordered the rib and pulled pork combo. I really was tempted to try their lemon pepper chicken, but this week is all about consistency as I work to find who rules the pig pen in Ottawa.
The cashier informed me they use a blend of apple and cherry. The apple is a nice call-out to Canadians, and when I entertain, I often fall back on an apple and maple wood blend to appease local palates. Cherry, as mentioned Monday, is one of my absolute favorite fruit woods, so I applaud their choice in smoke.
Once back at the office, it was time to eyeball the presentation. The portion size was easily the smallest of any of the three venues I visited this week. My in-laws, who have been basking in the spoils of large portions of leftovers, will be disappointed to learn there was no excess food today. However, as we’ll come to find out, that may be a blessing in disguise.
We’ll start with the good. While the pulled pork was not as generously dolled out as the other places, the meat was delicious. I was gifted with lots of bark pieces, which was glistening with rich, sweet sauce. The sauce was very heavy on the sugar, which turned the bark into legitimate candied BBQ. The seasoning was well balanced, and the pork had clearly been pulled in and around the magic 197 degree point; making it easy to pick apart, but not mushy. Excellent.
The ribs, on the other hand, were exceptionally disappointing given the volume of awards they’d won. There was no smoke ring at all, and instead, I was given several grey, charred pieces (including the flap). Each rib had the membrane attached, and while I won’t go into another diatribe on the matter, I will just remind the vendor that this practice is incredibly lazy and doesn’t show me that you really care about the product you’re delivering. The ribs were dry, and slid right off the bone, a clear sign of them being seriously overcooked. I suspect they’d sat on the final grill several minutes too long.
At a ribfest, where ribs are in the title of the event, this is exactly the kind of food you cannot possibly be churning out and expect repeat business. Maybe I was given a bad rack; but given the volume of choices I have, the chances I’ll give them another shot in another year are not good.