Background: Rock N Roll Ribs is the brainchild of Nicko McBrain, drummer of heavy metal band Iron Maiden, and Mitch Tanne, a grocery wholesale business owner. McBrain and Tanne have been friends for 20 years. While celebrities often open restaurants near the beaches and in Miami-Dade, it's nice to see northwest Broward getting some celebrity love.
Overall impression: While the barbecue here doesn't offend, neither does it rise to level of South Florida's best. Rock N Roll Ribs does, however, score big on several of its appetizers, sides and desserts, not to mention its fun, orthodox ambience.
Ambience: Not unlike Iron Maiden itself, the place is decorated as a cross between a concert and the third circle of hell. A large sarcophagus with menacing, glowing red eyes greets patrons at the door. We presume whatever might be in there didn't meet its end eating the food, so we ventured further into the small restaurant to find black and red walls, hanging guitars and a large stage set with various instruments. There was also a flat screen TV showing footage from rock concerts with its audio patched into the restaurant's impressively loud speaker system.
Starters: We started out strong with a luscious, hearty cup of El Dorado chili ($5.95), which won us over with a strong brown sugar taste coupled with a perfect amount of heat on the finish. We were like jackals over the Road Crew Onion Stack ($5.95), a plate of fried onion rings, three man-fingers wide, with a perfectly flaky breading. The rings were paired with a delicious mayonnaise-based Grammy sauce, the contents of which would not be revealed to us despite an intense interrogation of our server. Boneless Lazy Roadie wings ($6.95) were essentially some tasty chicken tenders. You'll love them topped with roast garlic, especially if there's no amount of garlic that you consider to be too much. That's us. We enjoyed the moist but not-too-greasy Nicko's Boomertat wings (16 for $13.95, 25 for $19.95), which we felt were much better with the house barbecue sauce than the typical hot sauce.
Entree excellence: While we exalted over most of the starters, the barbecue didn't rock us as hard. We went for the Appetite of the Beast platter for four ($59.95), with a half-rack of baby back ribs, half pound of pork and beef and a half chicken with fries, baked beans, cole slaw, corn on the cob and the typical garlic toast. The sauce on the baby back ribs was enjoyable if you like sauces that lean toward the tomato flavor. However, these typically fall-off-the-bone ribs were tougher than usual with not much going on flavor-wise once our tongues worked past the saucy coating to find the meat itself. Pulled pork and beef come sans sauce, letting you pick your poison between hot, tangy, mustard and, our favorite, the house sauce. Par for the course at the restaurant, the pulled meats are subdued in their seasoning, even though these meats were relatively moist compared to the ribs. After slathering on some of the house sauce, we were enjoying ourselves. The half-chicken is your standard chicken you'll encounter in every barbecue place, but some of us found the particular type of smokiness here unpleasant for the chicken — not that we're opposed to some smoke in our barbecue. The Rock N Roll burger ($8.95) with bacon, sauteed onions, barbecue sauce and cheese was your average restaurant burger, though if you get past all the fixings, the meat itself again lacked seasoning, as well as that desired fall-apart-in-your-mouth composition.
Side issues: If it's available, don't miss Brunswick Stew ($4.95), a tomato-based hodgepodge of shredded beef, corn, lima beans and peas that has a nice mix of sweet and spicy flavors. It was such an outstanding side, we wish the owners would always offer it. Mashed potatoes were also delicious, mashed with the skin, yet retaining a smooth texture and seasoned with a nice bit of fresh ground black pepper. Hand-cut french fries, the other potato incarnation, were a disaster. They were dried-out and had a near-cardboard-like taste. It's truly hard for us to loathe any hand-cut fries, but we really would have preferred frozen supermarket fries to these. Slices of corn on the cob were nice with a thin coating of melted butter. Make sure to top the corn with some of the tableside house spice blend, which comes in a kitschy drum-like container. If you don't like your cole slaw soaked in mayonnaise, you'll enjoy the slaw here with an enjoyably straightforward preparation. Potato salad was another great side, again straightforward without drowning the ingredients in too much mayo. There are as many preferences for baked beans as there are varieties, but we found these to be fairly enjoyable, while heavy on tomato flavor.
Sweet!: McBrain's British influence is apparent in the Big Orra ($4.95), an enormous helping of vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream with crushed honeycomb, whipped cream and bits of Cadbury chocolate. We adored every bite of the crunchy bits, and we might return just for a second helping of dessert. Fear of the Dark Chocolate Maximus Supremus ($6.95) is a tasty, fairly straightforward piece of chocolate cake with an outer layer of pressed-together chocolate chips. However, some of the moisture was sucked out of it, we suspect because it may have been stored in too much cold for too long.
Service: Our server was spunky, casual and friendly, perfectly in keeping with the atmosphere.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun