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Southern-style flavour smokes up Sparks Street

Photo by Amy Leppanen

In what was probably most people’s last barbecue of the season, Ribtoberfest fired up the grill on Sparks Street for one last time.

The pedestrian avenue was host to eight different “ribbers” from across North America, offering a variety of meaty treats and sides through Sept. 25–28. With eight contenders to choose from at Ribtoberfest’s second annual celebration, all with a number of trophies displayed at each stand, it was difficult to pick just a couple of feasts.

Silver Bullet’s half-rack of pork ribs, with a side of “cowboy coleslaw” and beans, and Gators’ BBQ beef ribs, with a side of potatoes, were both incredibly satisfying. The pork ribs were a little sweeter than the beef, but each had a strong and distinct barbecue sauce flavour.

Opting to eat ribs without a table was not for the faint-hearted—white T-shirts are not recommended.

Billy Bones BBQ and Crabby’s BBQ Shack also came out strong with their rib game.

Crabby’s ribs tasted more or less the same as Gators, but Billy Bones managed to stand out with its especially succulent sauce. The ribs were marinated in an exquisite blend of sweet and salty.

Surprisingly enough, as delicious as the ribs were, Billy Bones’ best item on the menu was their barbeque chicken. The sauce complimented the poultry better than it did their beef ribs.

On the other hand, Crabby’s ribs and chicken sauce didn’t have much bite or robust flavour, while Gators’ sauce was too distinctive from its accompanying ribs to blend properly in your mouth—it was as though the sauce was an afterthought.

Ribtoberfest still had some options for non-meat eaters, such as smoked corn and twisted potatoes.

Any true meat lover would understand what makes a rib taste great and understand why Crabby’s ribs won so many awards at Toronto Ribfest. However at the end of the day, we still preferred Billy Bones. Gators’ also gets bonus points for their awesome and useful rib bibs, which make for a fun photo op, especially for tourists.

The vendors’ prices were relatively fair for the quantity and quality. And as is often the case, the more you pay for your rack, the better your ribs will be.

Between this and the summer’s annual Ottawa Ribfest, the oft-neglected Sparks Street has garnered a tasty reputation for its many meat extravaganzas. We say bring it on.


  • Spring 2022: Desiree Nikfardjam Fall 2021: Zofka Svec 2020-2021: Aisling Murphy 2019-2020: Ryan Pepper 2018-2019: Iain Sellers 2017-2018: Ryan Pepper