Monday, March 21, 2005

New Riegel Cafe -- Ohio's Best BBQ

Best ribs in Ohio. Period. End of story.

I have had ribs from all over the state and found many good ones, but there is something about getting BBQ from New Riegel Café in tiny New Riegel, Ohio, that takes the cake.

New Riegel -- all 220 people -- is the essence of quiet small-town life. A large Catholic church, a small "community" store, a bar, a bank, and the Cafe. Not much else, and the people of New Riegel like it that way. Just like thousands of other small towns all over Ohio and throughout the Midwest.

New Riegel Cafe

What makes New Riegel different is the Cafe.

I was in a Strat-O-Matic baseball league with a guy that lived between Dayton and Cincinnati, and when he found out that I'd lived in Tiffin. The first question was "Have you ever been to New Riegel?" People come from all over the state to enjoy a hearty-meal at the Cafe.

What should you expect. Great food, but really not much else. The ambiance of the place is 20th century bar motif, in other words it is your typical small-town diner. Uncomfortable wooden benches, or long-tables with uncomfortable chairs. The waiting room - always crowded - is not well-planned and you are often pressed into a corner. A gift shop sells items, but the only thing that I've been interested in is the wall that has all the news clippings on the Cafe. Neil Zurcher's One Tank Trips made a trip to New Riegel along with numerous other food editors over the years.

The place doesn't take reservations, barely has a menu. Up until about 3-4 years ago the only menu was the one printed on the wall; they must have gotten tired of being asked because now each table has a small stand with the menu on it. Not sure why though, only New Riegel rookies need to look at it. Personally, I'm a rib-and-a-half with extra sauce, the wife rotates between ribs, chicken, and shrimp. The salad is a couple bucks extra and is really not worth the money -- lettuce with a couple slices of carrots -- but the homemade salad dressing are worth the extra cost. The house, a sweet-and-sour, is excellent.

Service is a regional joke. "So what do you want?" is a common statement. They aren't there to be nice just to get you on to the food. The dinner is served in paper-tubs and you don't even notice.

If you were ranking New Riegel on all the pieces, it would not look very good. But the food out-weighs everything. It is a wonderful place to eat and honestly one of my favorite places to go.

If you head to New Riegel take cash, as they do not accept any form of plastic. The meals are reasonable, the 1-1/2 order of ribs is about $11. No free refills on drinks.

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