I recently put on a new dealer in Fort Wayne, IN and I was in town to do some training for the staff. I always like to treat the sales guys to dinner after having to listen to me for a couple hours. When we finished up, I asked where they wanted to go. One of the guys brought up J.K. O'Donnell's, the fine Irish pub in downtown Fort Wayne. (Click here to see my entry on J.K. O'Donnell's.) But it was about a 20 to 25 minute drive from the dealer's location to J.K. O'Donnell's. Someone asked if I liked barbecue, because there was a very good barbecue place about a quarter mile away. I asked back, "Do they have beer at this barbecue place?" One of the guys explained that they did, but it wasn't as an eclectic mix of beers that are featured at J.K. O'Donnell's. Always up for something new in my travels, I suggested we go to the barbecue place. About five cars got in a mini caravan and pulled up to Ziffle's Rib Bar in a strip mall at the corner of State Street and Maplecrest Rd. in northeast Fort Wayne. (see map)
Ziffle's Rib Bar celebrated their 25th year in business in 2012. I'm guessing Owners Todd and Marcia Dennis have a good sense of humor as they probably named their rib joint after the pig, Arnold Ziffel, on one my favorite television shows growing up (well, and still to this day), Green Acres. The name on their restaurant juxtaposed the "e" and the "l", but I think I caught what the Dennis' are trying to do. And because of the pig theme to their restaurant, all the barbecue items on their menu are pork based - no beef or chicken barbecue items (although they do have oven baked chicken with barbecue sauce on the menu).
Ziffle's Rib Bar also has pizza on the menu, along with a number of sandwiches, salads, and appetizers. But one of their biggest sellers are their Ziffle-style fries. They season their French fries in a combination of 10 herbs and spices and they're a big hit. Ziffle's goes through a ton of cut potatoes for their fries in a week.
It was just passed 8:30 when we walked into the place. They quit serving at 9, but they have a bar area in the back that stays open later for drinks. The person who greeted us said we had our choice of sitting in the dining area (below left) or in the bar area (below right) (Pictures courtesy Yelp.com)
Since we figured we'd have a few beers with our meal, we ended up taking a table in the back corner of the bar. The tables in the bar and in the dining room were similar - heavy wood and comfortable seating. After getting a menu and ordering up some beers, I took a gander at what I wanted to order that evening.
For a barbecue place, Ziffle's is pretty lean on offerings. They had ribs, rib tips and pulled pork sandwiches. You could get a whole slab of ribs, a half slab of ribs or a quarter slab of ribs. I like to have a little variety of barbecue when I try a place and they didn't have any type of a sampler platter because, well, it was just ribs. I asked the waitress if they had pulled pork without the sandwich and she said, "No, not really." Then she said that I could get the rib snack - a quarter slab of ribs - to go along with the pulled pork sandwich. "A lot of people do it that way," she explained. OK, I'll do that, too. She asked me what kind of sauce I wanted and I asked if I could get the medium sauce with hot on the side (they also have a mild sauce available).
With the sandwich I got a side of the Ziffle-style fries, but before we even ordered one of the guys ordered up a basket of the Ziffle's Fire Fries - basically French fries with a hearty dose of cajun seasonings and cayenne pepper. They came out to the table after we had ordered they definitely had some zing on them, for sure. They certainly got my attention when I had a few.
All of us ordered barbecue with the exception of one of the guys who ordered a dozen and a half of the Ziffle's deep fried chicken wings smothered in hot barbecue sauce. He told me, "My dad thinks these are the best wings in the world. I don't know if I've found wings at any other place that are as good as these."
My pulled pork sandwich and my rib basket were placed in front of me. The pulled pork was served open faced on a hoagie bun with the potato chips underneath. The pork was slathered in some of their medium sauce. (No extra sauce was available on the table.)
The ribs consisted of four meaty bones, also bathing in some of the medium sauce. The medium sauce was a little sweet, but not too hot. I had a small tub of the hot barbecue sauce on the side and while it did have a hotter, more peppery taste, it wouldn't be classified as a "burn-your-face-off" sauce.
The pulled pork was very good - I ate it plain without the bread. The pulled pork was tender and flavorful, but the barbecue sauce really hid the true taste of the pork. I should have asked for the sauce on the side for both the pulled pork and ribs. But it was still very good.
The meat on the ribs was a tad tough to chew, but had a nice smoky flavor. The meat pulled off the bone rather easily and some parts of the ribs were a little more tender. Quite honestly, I couldn't find much to complain about with either the ribs or the pulled pork - other than maybe offering a sampler with both.
One of the guys offered me some of the Ziffle-style French fries. I can see why they're so popular. The seasoning on the fries had a nice zesty taste and the fries had that nice crunchy outer shell with a moist potato filling. I dipped some in the hot barbecue sauce and I lamented that I should have gone that route for a side.
We finished up our meals and sat around and had a couple more beers talking business until around 10 p.m. Like I said, I couldn't find much to complain about my meal at Ziffle's Rib Bar. The service was good (we had the server running back and forth quite a bit between the kitchen and the bar for us - she got a nice tip), the restaurant was clean and welcoming, and the food was very good. It may not be the best barbecue I've ever had, but for Fort Wayne, IN, I'm sure it's one of the best around. While J.K. O'Donnell's would have given us a wider variety of food and beers to choose from, I was very happy with my barbecue at Ziffle's Rib Bar. (Photo at right courtesy Yelp.com)