Everyone Should Know This Restaurant's Name

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It’s near the end of the first half, it’s third and seven from the twenty-five yard line, and the Redskins’ drive has stalled.  Suddenly, the bartender places in front of you a small plastic cup with an orange liquid that smells faintly of peaches. “Motivational shooter,” she says and smiles as she moves down the bar with a tray of plastic cups. Meanwhile, the manager is carrying a tray of chicken wings to a table in the corner for the halftime snacks.  Everyone is staring at a TV and cheering on the hometown team (except for Smallwood who was apparently swapped at birth and is a Dolphins fan). In an instant, some overachieving running back in burgundy  and gold sheds a tackler and rambles twenty-five yards for the touchdown. The crowd explodes in cheers, exchanging high fives, and congratulating each other as if each one of them had thrown the deciding block. This is Texas Ribs on “any given Sunday.”
If you spent any time in the 1980s you remember “Cheers,” the sitcom about a fictionalized neighborhood bar where “everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” Through careful casting and clever writing we were presented with the idealized vision of what a local bar could be. Texas Ribs—also called “TR” or “the Rib” or, coincidentally, “Cheers”—is St. Charles’ version of that bar.  With the majority of the patrons at any given time being regulars, the bar is always filled with conversation, good natured ribbing, and laughter. The tone and demeanor of the bar, however, is low-key and inviting enough that first time visitors have no problem find a stool and fitting in.

Texas Ribs got its start in Smallwood Village Shopping Center in the early 90’s, when it replaced a restaurant called Fin and Claw. It didn’t take long for the place to establish a following. Despite offering standard American restaurant fare—burgers and fries, mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, etc., TR is a barbecue joint first and foremost. Having appeared on Washingtonian Magazine’s 100 Cheap Eats, the restaurant’s ribs are some of the best in the area, which is not to say its brisket or its pulled pork or its smoked chicken aren’t worth stopping in for, too. Other menu items range from handmade potato chips to steamed shrimp to a prime rib dinner.  As the saying goes, “it’s all good.”

The restaurant itself is roughly divided into two sections, with the dining area to the left and the bar to the right (a brick wall forces you to decide the moment you walk in). The dining area is open and brightly lit, consisting of tables and high-back wooden booths, while the “L” shaped bar is a little darker and closed in. There are two flat screen TVs in the dining area, and several TVs surrounding the bar. Keno and Racetrax monitors are scattered throughout. Wednesday nights are ladies’ night, which includes discounted drinks at the bar for ladies and half-price dine-in chicken wings for everyone. Being (mostly) a Redskins bar, specials during the NFL season include free shooters for every touchdown the Redskins score (or the occasional one to motivate the Redskins to score) and free halftime snacks.

So Sam may not be behind the bar and Carla may not be waiting tables, but Jim is managing and Nadia is serving drinks. As for Norm and Cliff, we’ve got Ricky and Mark, or Joe and Kenny, or Jan and Mike, or me and Dennis. Take your pick.