King Ribs is a family owned chain of barbecue joints in Indianapolis boasting three locations. King Ribs has been serving barbecue in Indy for at least 18 years if not longer. The first time I heard of them was in 1996, or thereabouts, when they opened a new location off of Pendleton Pike and Shadeland Avenue in an old drive through bank.
So today as Jeff and I discussed where we wanted to go for lunch and what we wanted to eat, we decided we needed to review a restaurant on the West Side for a change and, since Jeff wanted barbecue, off we went to the King Ribs location on 16th Street.
King Ribs is located in what looks to be a very old fast food restaurant, maybe a Hardy’s or a vintage Burger King restaurant. Walking in the first thing you notice is the color scheme of black, gold, and red. The whole interior is painted in these colors. The paint looks bright and is well kept up.
What I find funny about barbecue joints is that they all seem to be put into old run down buildings. It’s kind of sad really because I can easily envision barbecue as the central feature for an upscale restaurant. If it were, a barbecue joint would be a great place to take someone on that all important first date or any other special occasion.
For seating there’s the traditional, fast food joint, Formica tables and locked down benches. There is no standard table and chair seating. If you are a person with any girth you will find it a bit difficult to get comfortable in the narrow spaces between the table top and the back of the bench. I certainly had trouble getting comfy with the table edge pushing four inches into my belly.
All meals and sides are served in Polystyrene, Styrofoam, or plastic containers along with a plastic fork, so if you have any moral qualms about pollution caused by the creation and disposal of hydrocarbon based products, you may not want to visit here.
Service isn’t much of an issue because, like most barbecue joints, you order your meal at the front counter. The staff, however, is friendly and more than willing to engage in a conversation with a curious customer.
Overall the restaurant is a bit run down although it is clean, same with the bathrooms. The floor was a touch sticky and could use a really good scrubbing but the tables, counters, and disposals were well cleaned and maintained. I noticed the counter staff cleaning tables during slow periods.
Jeff ordered the Ribs and Chicken combination meal along with Coleslaw and Mac & Cheese. I had the Tips and Chicken combo also with Coleslaw but with a side of Potato Salad. Choices for drinks are limited to soda pop and iced tea. Seeing one of my favorite pies on the menu I ordered a slice of Sweet Potato Pie for dessert.
The skinny on the food is a mixed bag. I understand the focus of a barbecue joint is the meat, however, I also think equal time should be paid to side dishes as well and here the devil is in the details. So, while the Mac & Cheese was home-style and had a good cheesy flavor, the macaroni was way overcooked and mushy. The Potato Salad was yellow, so you’d expect a mustard flavor right? Wrong. It seems the mustard was only added for color; otherwise the potato salad was rather plain with a little sweetness. Initially I thought the Coleslaw was a disappointment but as I took a second bite the flavor started to grow on me. The slaw is finely chopped with a little carrot added for color. The sauce is very mild but as you take second bite the flavor starts to really come in. I found it pleasant tasting. Unfortunately, the individual serving sizes for the sides are fairly small, meaning you only get two or three forks full a serving.
Now to what we really came for, the barbecue! The pig was truly sublime. The ribs and the tips were fall off the bone tender yet toothsome. The citrusy sweet flavor and mild bite of the barbecue sauce tantalized my palate and reminded me of the Texas Pit sauce I like to make for my family when they come over for a backyard barbecue supper. The pork had a really nice smoky flavor and the smoke ring was clearly evident. The chicken was good, but my dark meat serving was a tad overdone for my liking.
Somehow my order for Sweet Potato Pie got mixed up and I was given a serving of Chess Pie instead. I thought it looked strange for sweet potato but had a bite of it anyway. It was the sweetest thing I ever tasted. The Chess Pie is so sweet that if you aren’t diabetic when you start eating it, you will be by the time you finish it! It was great! But it wasn’t what I ordered, so I went back and traded the Chess Pie for the pie I ordered. With the first bite of that Sweet Potato Pie I knew I hit the jackpot! I make a mean Sweet Potato Pie and this one was as good as my own and maybe better.
The Juicy Bits
While the barbecue at King Ribs is well done and very tasty, the sides could use a little more love and attention. A new recipe for the Potato Salad and a bit less sauce on the Mac & Cheese would go a long way taking care of that. You can’t go wrong ordering the pork, no matter if you prefer it in the form of ribs, tips, or a pulled pork sandwich. They say their barbecue sauce is award winning and I believe it! Last, a more green approach to serving plates would be a good call.
In summary: If you have a hankering for barbecue in Indianapolis, King Ribs is a pretty good choice to satiate that desire. For dessert, if you like the kind of sweet that will rot the teeth out of your mouth as you chew, go ahead and have a piece of Chess Pie. Otherwise opt for the fantastic Sweet Potato Pie.
3145 West 16th Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46222
Tel: (317) 488-0223
Hours: Monday – Thursday (11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.), Friday – Saturday (11:00 a.m. – Midnight), Sunday (12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.)