Monday, 29 June 2009

The Invitational International Chicken-Rib Cook-Off ~ Or OTTAWA RIBFEST 2009

International Competition Invitational Chicken-Rib Cook Off.
The International Chicken-Rib Cook Off.
Ottawa Ribfest.

Call it what you will, but to the office drones and BBQ devoid masses of Ottawa, it is the smell of pork and chicken and fire. There's lots to talk about, so I've broken my discussion into 2 sections: the event itself, and my tasting reviews.

Being exiled in Ottawa, this was going to be a ribfest for just LJ & Me. I wasn't in the Capital last year to go to this event, but experience at London's Ribfest prepared me. Or so I thought.

Lets get the basic details down before I get too far into observations and comments.

For simplicity, I will refer to the event as Ottawa Ribfest, as OICRCO is too much and ORF is too ridiculous.

Every year the event takes place on Sparks Street, a pedestrian outdoor mall just South of the Parliament Buildings. In 2009 it went from Wednesday June 24-Sunday June 28th, from about 11am until Ribs run out about 7 pm-ish. That is all the information that the Sparks Street website advertises for the event (and the time period I got from calling and getting their answering machine).

9 teams 'competed' in the event:

  • Bibbs BBQ
  • Boss Hogs
  • Uncle Sam
  • Camp 31
  • Silver Bullet BBQ
  • Billy Bones
  • Gator BBQ
  • Blazin BBQ
  • Texas Outlaws

Unfortunately some stands were isolated on the far left or far right from the 'main' action. I didn't even get down to Bibbs or Boss Hoggs neck of the woods.

Map found by someone on Red Flag Deals who found it somewhere on the net

Unlike other Ribfests, this Spark's Street affair is not attached to any charity. So the price of this event feels very steep. Unlike London's, there isn't a central menu, although all the stands are relatively standardized:

$20 for a full rack
$13 for a half rack
$9 for a third rack
$10 for a half chicken
$15 for a ribs+chicken combo
$20 for a ribs+chicken+ pulled pork combo

$6 for a pulled-pork sandwich
$2 for beans, potatoes

Most of these are part of the traveling ribfest circuit across the province, and makes it over to my very own London Ribfest.

We went first thing Saturday morning to beat the crowds. Where the London event is mostly a weekend thing, Ottawa's Ribfest is a huge weekday deal. Sparks Street is at the peak of the business district, and apparently the office workers fill the streets at lunch trying to get some ribs. One guy reported waiting 45 minutes in long lines to get food!

Saturday morning wasn't dead, but it wasn't alive either. At 10:30 the booths were still setting up, and the various BBQ pit crews looked like they were waking up at 5:30 am instead of close to noon.

I'm sorry, but I have to go back to compare it to London again. Unlike Victoria Park where the Forrest City's event occurs with stages, vendors and other activities, Spark Street is pretty bare. There just isn't much room for anything. Well, there was room for a horse and buggy.

There were about 10 picnic tables for people to sit at (about 1 per booth) however some of the restaurant patio's do open their seating to Ribfesters if they purchase a drink. I also didn't see anywhere to buy drinks (pop or alcohol) other than the permanent establishments, and a single lemonade stand.

I saw 1 port-a-potty, but there were a bank of hand washing stations. And while the event does not contribute to a charity, the Ottawa Children's Wish Foundation sell wetnaps to stained grub grabbers, calling themselves "The Sticky Fingers Brigade."

While we were eating, PETA showed up protesting eating pigs. This huge protest was 3 teenage girls and an older woman, all quite shy, with one coming up to our table and meekly asking if we would like a free magazine. We took it, and I will talk about PETA's contributions in a later post.

As we were leaving the event, the Dr Pepper truck showed up. They were unloading and just before we walked by I lamented to LJ how I wish they had showed up earlier. Just then the female customer rep turned around from the back of the truck and cheerfully asked "would you like a free Dr Pepper?". Would I ever! It wasn't cold (it was right on top, the rest were nestled in ice) but it was free, and Dr Pepper.

Wait, what about the food? Well, I'm going to write about that in the next post. Let down I know.


Well, lots of Ottawians flock for the taste of meat, but like the experience of many eateries in the capital, people just don't seem to know what the good stuff can be.

Here are some things that need to be improved:

  • Better advertisement! I only heard about this through word of mouth
  • The Sparks Street website needs WAAAAAAAY more info. Who's there, when is the event, when is judging, what are prices - so much to improve on.
  • More tables. 10 picnic table for hundreds to possibly thousands is not enough.
  • Maybe it was just early on a Saturday, but some buskers or some sort of entertainment would be nice.
  • Compost would also have been nice too.
  • Keep all the vendors closer together so that no one is left sepperated from the end.

Here are some things that were done well:

  • Ok you don't have much space, so kudos on the 1 bathroom and 1 bank of hand washing stations.
  • Enviro friendly take-out containers. No more Styrofoam is a good thing.

So I wasn't really impressed with the 'event' itself. Maybe I missed some info about things going on, but it didn't feel like an important event I would go out of my way to go to in the future. And the fact that there was no charity attached made it seem like a bigger rip off. Also, calling it an 'invitational international' makes it sound like a professional event, but it is not. Really it was pretty ho-hum event. But the masses love it, and its good for the area. I guess.

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