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A Bone to Pick

August 4, 2015

Bug bites make me grumpy. Let’s just say I’ve got a couple. Or at least I hope they are bug bites. If I remember correctly from my last brush with poison oak, I suspected at first that the itchy welts were bug bites, but then they continued to spread.

This body wasn’t meant to be out in the woods.

For what it’s worth, the waterfalls were beautiful. And I suppose it was a good idea to get a little exercise beyond the strenuous matches of foosball being waged in the rumpus room of this rental house.

To fortify myself for the hike ahead, I made sure to make a stop into a local BBQ place that looked like it may have had promise. And truth be told, it was fine. Better than some. Not quite as good as others. But the whole thing really left me in foul mood.

Here’s the question. What do you expect when you get a “full order” of ribs at a BBQ restaurant?

I think the answer is obvious. When you include the word “full” in the presence of the word “ribs” a restaurant is conjuring up the image of a “full rack” or “full slab” depending on where you’re from.

It would be helpful to have a butcher weigh in on the conversation, but my understanding is that a full rack of baby back ribs is 13-14 ribs. Although there is another source that suggests a full rack can range from 11-14 ribs.

So a reasonable person would infer that a “half order” would be a “half rack,” which I’ve never before tried to quantify. A full rack of ribs is a sizeable affair and a half rack is still a significant amount of fatty smoked meat.

Imagine my surprise and dismay when I found my half-order of ribs contained a paltry four ribs. It looked sad and small on a standard plastic plate. And I was compelled to ask if this was indeed my order, because I had to assume there had been some kind of error.

There was not. This was the restaurant’s half order of ribs. And this counter service BBQ joint charged $15 for the order. That’s almost $4 a rib! I was shocked. I’m still shocked.

Not knowing the order size, I also would have been dismayed if I ordered a full rack of ribs and only received eight bones. However, at $21 for the full order, that is still a much more reasonable outcome at closer to $2.50 a rib.

Really, this is simply a problem of expectations. Transparency is key. If you tell customers what to expect, they won’t be disappointed. Knowing what I do now, I never would have gotten the half order of ribs. It’s for suckers. Instead, I would have ordered the sampler plate. It would have come with one less rib in exchange for a pile of brisket.

Lesson re-learned. Stay vigilant. Be wary of making assumptions. And to those who have restaurants, don’t forget that a little bit of transparency can go a long way.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 4, 2015 10:44 am

    A “full rack” should be a complete side of the pig’s ribs. I don’t think there would be any confusion about that at any reputable barbecue restaurant (The Salt Lick outside of Austin, for instance, or any place in Lockhart). This kind of issue is why I save my barbecue-eating, for the most part, for trips to Texas or North Carolina (and a few places which do it the right way in California).

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