By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
You gotta love a dish that includes wet naps as dessert. Ribs are that kind of food, one that permits decent, churchgoing folks such as ourselves to behave like uncouth culinary heretics; a food that permits polite people to converse with brown rings around their mouths while spluttering chaw-hued spittle into the coleslaw. Ribs also offer the kind of chewy succulence that goes well with pints of beer good for washing the lips back to a kissable color.
What ribs are not is the kind of food that necessarily pairs well with wine. They're generally slathered with thick sweetish sauces that wreak havoc on wine and your tongue, too, depending on the grade of crude from which the sauce is refined.
But Racks astounds with a modestly provocative wine list that includes a South African vouvray, a Texas meritage, a real Burgundy, and a pinotage, that oddball cross between pinot noir and cinsault grown exclusively in South Africa. Not only that, but the wine list actually includes tasting notes with unforgettably pithy phrases such as "a wine as big as Texas itself" and "coating every taste bud with silky flavors" and "hints of black currant, herbs, and cola." (In addition to cola, Racks also has Mr. Pibb on its beverage list).
3885 Belt Line Rd
Addison, TX 75001-4304
Fried cheesy combo: $5.95
Stuffed mushrooms: $5.95
Golden onion soup: $3.49
Caesar salad: $5.49
Rib sampler: $17.95
Grilled pork chop: $8.95
Rib eye: $16.49
Racks blues burger: $6.49
Baked potato: $3.25
Cobbler of the day: $4.95
This wine list is a terrific little assembly for a rib joint, a collection that could conceivably convert a Bud tippler or a highball roller into an effete cabernet sniffer. Not that there aren't entrées on the menu that wouldn't mind cavorting with a zinfandel or a sauvignon blanc every now and again. In addition to ribs (beef, boneless, baby back, and spare), Racks serves up grilled pork chops, rib-eye steaks, hickory-smoked chicken, grilled tuna steaks, and chicken-fried steaks.
But ribs are Racks' claim to fame, and ribs are its biggest disappointment. No, it's that "awesome foursome" of sauces--honey barbecue, flaming glory, sweet glory, and original--that are Racks' biggest disappointment, each tasting as if it was made from melted Sweet 'n Low. Racks' rib sampler with pickings of beef, boneless, and Racks' signature spare ribs showed no measurable appeal in any way. The spare ribs were tender, but they were as tasteless as a Cadillac with a two-toned landau roof, despite the menu's claim that they were flush with rich hickory smoke flavor. The boneless ribs were dry and flavorless, like cardboard with a little cured bathtub caulk thrown in for chewiness. The beef ribs come with a crust the color of an overheated Firestone, so is it any wonder they were tasteless and parched? (Actually, the flavor was fairly good once you peeled back the treads.)
Before serving, Racks singes its "hickory-smoked" ribs on a glassed-in display grill (next to a display case proffering Racks paraphernalia such as hats, shirts, and other clothes you may need to change into after a rib dinner) to give the meat some crust. It's sort of a spectacle in a corner of the dining room where flames flare up, soaking the room with momentary flashes so you can see your food better for an instant.
Yet if Racks doesn't do ribs all that well, then what does it do well? Certainly not steak. The 10-ounce rib eye, cooked to a perfect medium rare hue, was a miserable piece of artery blockage with little flavor and so much fat and stringy gristle that it was hard to cut with the serrated steak knife that was provided. Maybe Racks should consider electric steak knives.
The grilled T-bone pork chop was much better. It was juicy, and while not as well-seasoned as the menu verbiage implies, it was well-sifted with smoke. And despite its thinness, the chop was thankfully pulled off the grill before the pink was cooked out of it, which is good, though maybe this one had a little too much pink. The flesh near the T-bone was raw, gripping the mind with quaint trichinosis phobias.
But if Racks' meat leaves you high and literally dry, there are always the generous sides to fill up on. Entrées all come with a choice of two sides from a roster that includes sautéed mushrooms, coleslaw, onion rings, baked beans, French fries, potato salad, and rice pilaf, the latter being just a pile of unseasoned, un-pilaflike boiled white rice with flecks of carrot. Sautéed vegetables were fine, if uninteresting, consisting of slightly soggy slices of squash, zucchini, and bell pepper. Barbecue baked beans were rich and delicious, and though my dining companions thought me nuts, I thought the coleslaw was fairly decent with shreds of red cabbage in a creamy dressing that had a slightly smoky flavor to it. Perhaps the kitchen got a little mixed up and smoked the cabbage instead of the ribs. Fries weren't bad either, though they could have been a little crisper.
Racks also does a respectable job with burgers. The Racks blues burger, a juicy, savory patty with melted blue cheese, was assembled with a sheet of lettuce and a couple of waxy tomato slices plus pickles slipped between a boring bun. The menu said something about a Racks blues sauce accompanying this burger, but what we got was a metal ramekin of ketchup, which might be the same thing.