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I felt very much like Fred Flintstone when his car starts to tip after he orders the brontosaurus ribs at the drive-in when I received my mammoth portion of pork ribs during a recent visit to Texas Ribs & BBQ.
Since I was unsure what to order, my server Anna suggested the brisket sandwich ($7.99) or the ribs ($12.99). I went with the latter, and I was glad I did.
The large, meaty ribs, which had a mouth-watering crust and were delicately seasoned and bursting with flavor, filled up an entire plate, which led to my “yabba-dabba-do” moment.
The meal came with two sides. I opted for a creamy coleslaw and well-made macaroni salad, but could also have selected baked beans or potato salad, along with two slices of Texas toast.
There was a choice of three sauces; sweet, mild and hot. Anna also offered me a tequila-based sauce that is made with smoked jalapenos and habaneros and tomato and lime juice.
“I have a guy who comes in and drowns his chicken wings in it,” said Texas Ribs & BBQ co-owner Scott Sager, who added that the sauce also is popular on the Texas chili mac ($8.99), or 5-way chili. “He buys a bottle once a month. He puts it on everything. He loves it.”
I was tempted to order one of their appetizers such as the Texas tater skins ($5.99), jalapeno poppers ($5.99) or breaded mushrooms ($4.99) but, thanks to a recommendation from Anna, saved room for one of the restaurant’s desserts — which are picked up daily from Charles Street Bakery — and glad I did.
A large wedge of cherry pie — others offered on this day were apple, blueberry and lemon meringue — was bursting with tart cherries and was covered with a golden brown lattice top sprinkled with rock sugar ($3.99).
In 1986, Danny Sager opened the first Texas Ribs & BBQ from a small trailer on Route 925 in Waldorf. He eventually moved into a warehouse in Waldorf and then into the restaurant’s current location in Smallwood Village in Waldorf.
Four years later, Sager sold the restaurant to his brother and opened a new location in Clinton. The success of the Clinton location spurred him to open the La Plata location in June 2012 with nephew Scott Sager. Now the two are co-owners.
“Danny enjoys opening restaurants,” Scott Sager said of his uncle. “It’s fun for him. It’s a job for me. He enjoys it. That’s why he does it.”
Though the Waldorf location, which is now run by Scott Sager’s aunt, operates under the same name, they are separate entities.
“No, we don’t bother their business at all,” Sager said. “She knew we were opening [in La Plata], but she had no trouble with it. They have their people, and sometimes they come here. She has her territory there, I guess.”
When asked what makes his restaurant’s barbecue stand out among all the other restaurants serving the same fare, Sager said it was because of the personal touch.
“Beside it tasting better, I guess maybe it’s because it’s all family,” he said. “One of us is always here so it’s a hands-on kind of thing. It’s not like a chain restaurant where they open it up and hire someone to run it.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the brisket, ribs and chicken all receive a special dry rub from a recipe by Danny Sager and that all the meats are smoked. The brisket, one of the restaurant’s top sellers, is smoked for up to 14 hours.
“We cook it at a low temperature for a long period of time,” Scott Sager said. “Low and slow.”
Other big sellers are the Carolina pulled pork sandwich ($6.99) and the catfish platter ($13.99), which comes with two sides.
The sauces are all family recipes and assembled by prep cook Terri Carroll. Jose Pineda Urias does much of the cooking.
The location also has a Twin Kiss ice-cream stand, which has been around since 1958. Sager said he didn’t want to spoil the “La Plata landmark” so he had the original owners come in and show the staff how to make the shop’s original root beer.