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Published June 07, 2010, 12:00 AM

Everyone deserves some good ribbin'

But Ribfest isn’t cheap, so go in with an idea of what you like
Point your nose south and take a whiff. Can you smell that? It’s the aroma of barbecue sauce approaching the metro area.
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Point your nose south and take a whiff.

Can you smell that? It’s the aroma of barbecue sauce approaching the metro area.

The Fargodome’s Ribfest starts smoking Wednesday, and, as always, it’ll be a meat utopia.

But with seven ribbers getting their grills stoked, you don’t want to end up eating a rib that doesn’t put a smile on your sauce-covered face (especially since eating at Ribfest can put a dent in your wallet).

So here’s a little primer on this year’s ribbers to help you pick the one that’s right for you.

Aussom Aussie’s BBQ

Pittsburg, Pa.

Despite the Pennsylvania ties, this grill jockey is from the land Down Under, as the name implies. Owner Paul Mackay uses cherry and apple wood for a sweet and mild effect on the meat. That fruit wood produces “a much milder smoke, so it doesn’t have the bitter aftertaste” that traditional woods like hickory would have, Mackay says.

He also uses fruit-based sauces, which is typical of Australian barbecue, and, while sweet, these ribs still have some spice to them. And his sauces have a lower acidic content than others, Mackay says, making it easier on the stomachs of those who are a bit intolerant of spicy food.

Cowboys Barbeque and Rib Co.

Weatherford, Texas

Texas is one of those states that just sort of pops into your mind when you think about barbecue. Cowboys hails from the east Texas town of Weatherford and uses mesquite and hickory for its smoke source.

Cowboys’ slather is a molasses-based sauce. And, given that these ribs are from eastern Texas, you might also notice some chili flavor or even a touch of Worcestershire sauce hit your tongue.

Johnson’s Bar-B-Que

Chesapeake, Va.

When Forum reporters Tammy Swift and Shane Mercer (i.e. “Yours Truly”) sampled the ribs at last year’s Ribfest, Johnson’s got our nod.

Whether it was a fluke or a trend, I can’t say, but the Johnson ribs we tried were tender and substantial.

The meat was “buttery-tender with wonderful, smoky top notes,” wrote Swift. Johnson’s “All-American Sauce was the perfect balance of spicy and sweet.”

Willingham’s World Champion BBQ

Annandale, Minn.

They may run their pit crew out of Minnesota, but Willingham’s is a rib with the dry-rub feel of Memphis. You can get barbecue sauce, to be sure, but chief pit master Jon Bigalk says you don’t really need it. The 22-ingredient rub they use is “so special,” he says.

The ribs are flavorful, including some citrus taste, but they’re not spicy hot, Bigalk says. He describes the flavor experience as an “explosion on your taste buds.”

It’s “very complex,” Bigalk says. And while there is some sweetness in the rub, it’s not the syrupy sweet style that you’ll get with a Kansas City rib.

Porky ’N’ Beans

Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Dennis Carrino, owner of the Porky ’N’ Beans barbecue operation, touts the freshness of the seasonings they use. Good thing. There are about 27 herbs and spices in the Porky ’N’ Beans rub, which, Carrino says, create a complex flavor.

The sauce has “kind of a sweet and smoky flavor” to it, he says. They use fruit woods to fuel their smoke.

Rasta Joe’s BBQ

Plymouth, Ind.

When you think Indiana, you can’t help but think of the Caribbean. OK, maybe not. But Rasta Joe is trying to change that via these ribs with the island flavor that might be a good option if you’re looking for something a little different on your pork rack.

Joe knows ribs, and while these bones of joy have enough sizzle to make the taste buds perk up, Joe also knows it’s about more than simple heat. There needs to be flavor, and the flavor of Joe’s ribs is enhanced by the Jamaican rum he blends into his sauces.

Desperado’s BBQ and Ribs

Hinckley, Ohio

Desperado’s likes to give you options. They cook their ribs with a small amount of grilling sauce on them and then let you choose from their barbecue sauces to suit your own tastes, co-owner Donna Rice says.

You might find a little taste of garlic, pepper and sugar in the Desperado’s rib. Rice says their pork ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender. If you don’t want it tender, Rice says, these are not the ribs for you.

If you go

  • What: Fargo Ribfest 2010
  • When: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
  • Where: Fargodome, 1800 N. University Drive
  • Info: Gate admission is $5 ($3 with coupon, available at HotSpring Spas, Fargo Tire, Tesoro, BioLife Plasma Services and Farnam’s Napa Auto Parts). Admission and parking are free from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Parking is free all day Sunday. Visit fargoribfest.com for more info.

Ribfest for kids

Just because you’re not old enough to consume a whole rack of ribs doesn’t mean Ribfest isn’t for you. There’s stuff for the kids, too. The Games Galore inflatable play area is open each day. Daryl’s Racing Pigs run Wednesday through Saturday. Riblet Fest is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Penny & Pals hits the Riblet Fest Stage at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

The sounds of Ribfest

Here’s the skinny on this year’s tunes:


Phil Vassar, 9:15 p.m.

Heroes and Thieves, 7:30 p.m.


32 Below, 8:30 p.m.

At The Emporium, 6 p.m.


Gin Blossoms, 9:15 p.m.

Front Fenders, 7 p.m.


Dokken, 9:15 p.m.

Slaughter, 7 p.m.

Six Chamber, 5 p.m.


Post-Traumatic Funk Syndrome, 1 p.m.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734