The Ribbery Sports Bar lies at the intersection of Main Street and Parker Street, just over the river from Ludlow and very close to Mass Pike exit 7. It's a tough spot to access if coming from the Mass pike, but the reward for your perseverance is a spacious parking lot adjacent to the building. Entry is to a large bar area whose long bar has about a dozen and a half stools, about a half dozen TVs, a couple of high tops and a couple of comfortable couches. There's a laid back, lived-in look that some may find comforting and some may find intimidating (I'd choose the former). A separate (just as lived-in) dining area has tables and chairs, an entertainment unit (there's live music on weekends and karaoke three nights a week) and dated music-related decor on the walls.
There are tell-tale signs on the menu that this might not be a real barbecue joint: babyback ribs only, ribs and chicken combo, no brisket. There seems to be more of a 1980s era (or earlier) pub slant, with a fried onion loaf, fried mushrooms, fried mozzarella sticks, fried zucchini, Buffalo wings and potato skins. The mostly non-barbecue menu offers a few different salads, a few different soups, a few different steaks and a few different seafood options, including fried and baked.
I hit the Ribbery solo for a Wednesday lunch between Christmas and the New Year.
A half onion loaf was a fry basket-sculpted behemoth with crisp onions made with the kind of light, crunchy, thinly-applied batter I like. For me, this rivaled the top notch onion rings at Uncle Pete's (Revere MA, now closed) for best fried onions at a barbecue joint. If there was any downside, it was the two cups of barbecue sauce supplied as a condiment: imagine the maraschino red, artificially colored, artificial tasting sweet and sour sauce commonly found at a hokey 1980s era Chinese restaurant, mix it 50-50 with ketchup, and that's what this sauce tasted like.
Ironically and eerily reminiscent of Uncle Pete's, the cole slaw was brought to the table pre-meal, making it an extra appetizer. It was finely (and I mean extra finely) chopped, lightly dressed and very sweet, but nicely tempered with a good supply of celery seed and possibly one other seed. It tasted a lot better than it looked; I liked it a lot.
The rubber met the road with the arrival of the entrees. Ribs, as expected, were typical 1980s chain style babybacks: zero smoke, zero pink color, zero rub flavor. Aside from the disappointingly minimal crust, the texture was pleasant, with very tender meat that was only slightly overcooked and thankfully shy of the fall-off-the-bone mush that some restaurants of this ilk strive for. The sauce appeared to be the same candy red abomination I tried earlier, but it worked much better when cooked into the meat than as a cold dipping sauce. Comparing these ribs to most real barbecue joints is easy: they don't stack up. But against most of the all-purpose chains, they compare at least somewhat favorably.
BBQ chicken tasted more grilled than smoked, but the meat was cooked to a perfect doneness with a good moisture content. The skin was slightly crisp and that same red sauce, though far from stellar, worked even better with the chicken.
The pulled pork sandwich arrived in a large, fresh sub roll that dwarfed the portion of the meat, but unfortunately portion size was the least of the problems. Like the ribs, the pork exhibited no evidence of rub or smoke, and there was even less—make that zero—bark. The same sweet red barbecue sauce was again at play, this time thinned down to a light pink hue (I did not care for it at all with the pork). Texture wasn't bad as far as doneness, but the meat was very steamy and nearly flavorless aside from the sauce that hurt more than helped.
Sides were about average. I enjoyed the cole slaw, appreciating the subtleties of the flavors and the addition of seeds. The ordinary baked potato was prepared competently, but it's difficult to screw up a baked potato. Fries were your typical standard food service issue frozen crinkle cuts (but at least cooked to a nice crisp outside, buttery texture inside).
There’s no barbecue sauce on the table, and no extra sauce accompanied the barbecue meats. That might be a good thing in this case.
The bottom line: Destination barbecue this is clearly not. But you're craving old school ribs and chicken that rely heavily on grilling and sauce, the Ribbery might hit the spot, especially considering that the only other Springfield barbecue joint is Theodore's. Based on one meal at each, I'd say the "barbecue" is a wash (and not particularly good at either), but if the high energy level I like at Theodore's is a turn-off for you, Ribbery might be more up your alley.
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