Fargo Ribfest 2010 Rib Ratings

Ribs, ribs and more ribs…  It’s a tough task, but Joe and I have manned up to get the deed done. We’ve attended this year’s Ribfest in Fargo, ND and managed to try every cook’s concoction by opening night just so local readers can see what we think before enduring the crowds and lines. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was dang near impossible. If we hadn’t paid some folks toward the front of some lines to get us samplers, I don’t think we could have made it through them all in time.

From Memphis style to Kansas City, Texas and Carolina, there’s all kinds of ways to prepare this all-American classic. Despite their differences, they have two things in common: low and slow. Classic barbecue is the name of the game in this competition and our judgements take it right down to the basics focusing on the balance of tenderness, rub and smoke.

Below you’ll find our quick takes on every rib at this year’s Ribfest. It’s strictly our opinion and surely everyone’s will vary, but hopefully this will help you decide which line to jump in that best suits your taste.

Cowboy’s Barbeque and Rib Co.

These bad boys came slathered in sauce… and for good reason. Overall, the meat was fairly dry with little to no smoke flavor. The sauce was thin and lacked any sort of punch that was desperately needed. We’d give these a firm D+ grading.

Desperado’s BBQ

These ribs are the definition of “fall off the bone.” For us, they’re a little too fall off the bone. It’s nice to have a little bit of bite and chew to the protein for an even balance of tenderness. With Desperado’s, it was one bite and the whole kit slipped off the bone turning into a limp meat sock. C-.

To make up for it, the Sweet and Smoky sauce (one of three offered) was definitely their best . It’s a spot on sidekick turning meat into magic.

Johnson’s BBQ

Johnson’s ribs are truly well rounded. The sauce is not overpowering with a great tango between lightly sweet and a tiny zip of spice, both of which are easily penetrated by great smoke flavor. Combined with a perfect tenderness, these ribs are so delicious you’ll be stepping back in line for seconds before you’ve finished your firsts. A-.

Aussom Aussie’s BBQ

From the moment we laid our wet-nap pruned fingers on Aussom Aussie’s ribs we knew they would mean business, and they do. Big time. Tender, meaty, smokey and best of all they required no additional sauces. These ribs come perfect as is and are the true definition of what barbecued ribs should taste like. The smoke flavor defined these ribs beautifully without overpowering a delicate, carmelized rub. What makes these ribs the best is you can just pick them up and eat them. If you pick one place to eat at Ribfest, this is your stop. A+.

Aussie’s also had an interesting Raspberry Chipotle BBQ sauce if you found the need. It’s great for those with a sweet tooth because it’s definitely more on the raspberry side than the chipotle. It is an excellent break from the typical BBQ line-up for sure.

Porky N’ Bean’s BBQ

These are definitely the toughest of the bunch. Perhaps we got a rushed batch cooked at a higher temperature for not too long, but that’s no excuse for serious BBQ’ers. Where Porky N’ Bean’s could make up some ground, the sauce, they don’t. It’s something between sweet and sour sauce and sugary store bought BBQ. C+

Rasta Joe’s BBQ

Rasta Joe’s was my favorite last year and they’ve brought something strong to the table yet again. Surely the most uniquely flavored batch in competition. There’s something special about these ribs that we just can’t pinpoint. Smoke flavor is present, but it’s a uniquely herbilicious flavor coming from the rub that seems to make itself known. And truthfully, I’m dead serious. This isn’t a roundabout weed toting funny ha-ha poke toward Rasta’s.

Additionally, the ribs themselves were a bit dry and our batch seemed to be sitting out for a bit. The sauce is the show for these bad boys.

If Rasta Joe’s isn’t your first pick, and you’ve got room to spare, it’s definitely worth a try. B-.

Willingham’s World Champion BBQ

Willingham’s stands out as one of the few with truly great tenderness. They’re not tough, although there is a definite bite to them, and they’re not slide off the bone. They hold up well all while maintaining incredible juiciness. Given our first taste, without the sauce (the way we like it), the flavor seemed lacking – a disappointment for great execution of fundamental BBQ. Perhaps the rub could use some work. They are a toward the Memphis style with the dry rub which is nice because you decide whether you’d like to add sauce.

If you do add the sauce, these babies are rescued and brought to a new height. It’s as if all they need is a cup of BBQ sauce coffee to waken them up a bit and these ribs are in the running for the finals. B-.

Final Thoughts

I would say Aussom Aussie takes the crown for me this year. Everything was pinpoint BBQ magic on their end. Truly delicious on delivery with no additions needed. Another great contender is Johnson’s. It will be fun to see whom the crowd votes for, but my bet is in early for Aussie’s.

Now… off to cheese curds.


  1. Shawn says:

    Excellent reviews grillmeister! I will test my taste buds tonight.

  2. Monster says:

    Should have had NDSU BBQ Boot Camp as a contender!!!

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