BY TRONE DOWD
With the weather warming up and the trees beginning to bloom, it has never been more apparent that summertime is right around the corner. And with the new weather comes the old traditions: for many, summer time means breaking out the grill for all sorts of cuisines made just for the seasonal solstice.
While every culture has their favorites, the most popular of barbecued dishes is of course good old American style dishes. Ribs, burgers, potato salad, you name it.
But let’s say you don’t want to worry yourself with the massive prep time that goes into a day of fun in the sun and barbecue with the family. Well, the Queens Tribune has you covered! Here’s one spot that will get you that great homemade barbecue taste without having to pull out the barbecue equipment.
Poor Freddie’s Rib Shack
Located in Jamaica
Address: 157-06 Linden Blvd
Hours: 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., Monday through Friday
Any passerby of the long time Southeast Queens mainstay will quickly notice the bold proclamation made right in front of the restaurant: “Rib Shack, the Best Ribs on Earth!”
While most restaurants brag about their dishes just to get people into the door, Rib Shack has the long time faithful customers to back them up. Starting as a small time shack in the neighborhood of Jamaica back in the 1960’s, Rib Shack has truly come a long way since then.
“When we first started, we were nothing more than a stand, no larger than the cashier area,” restaurant manager Patrick Agg said. “All that stood here was a tight area for employees and a huge grill for them to cook on.”
Despite the fairly humble beginnings however, the home soul food inspired stand made a huge splash in the borough.
“Lines would often stretch around the block, all people looking to try our specialty dishes,” Agg said.
And of the specially dishes, there are quite a few that customers have grown to love. Their most popular? As expected, the restaurant’s namesake: barbecued ribs.
“Easily, our most popular dish is our pork ribs,” Agg said without pause. “If you sit here to eat, you’ll hear the cleaver banging the chopping board. When you hear that, you know that our ribs are being prepared. They’re cut fresh and smoked.”
In fact, smoked is just half the story. The ribs are slow cooked for long hours, often times starting at 4 a.m., cooking until the restaurant is open for business at 11 a.m. The ribs can be served dry or with Rib Shack’s signature BBQ sauce, one that this reporter can best describe with the term “sweet heat.” Fans of soul food with a kick will certainly enjoy their special, made-from scratch topping.
The long prep time goes for all of Rib Shack’s signature dishes, which are all made from scratch. The peeling and washing and cooking of vegetables and baked goods begins at 4 a.m., fresh for the hundreds of paying customers the restaurant serves everyday. Some of their other popular dishes include their collard greens, sweet potatoes, banana pudding and of course, their peach cobbler. They even serve potato salad, one that is beloved by many in the store. One customer told this reporter, “the potato salad is something special.”
Agg bragged that Rib Shack had a top secret ingredient that makes their version of the popular barbecue side unique from everyone else. Although this reporter try to pry, Agg insisted that the special ingredient is something that customers need to try for themselves.
While it may seem mostly Southern inspired, the inspiration from which they draw doesn’t stop there.
“They’re obviously a little Caribbean,” Agg said. “We have a diverse staff.” Agg said that the cooks of Rib Shack often offer a little bit of flair to the dishes, creating something wholly unique. Some of the inspiration one might see comes from Indian, African-American and even French cuisine.
“The menu is always changing” Agg said. “We try to keep everything chef inspired. So you’ll often see some new ideas, something that we think will bring in a new crowd of people.”
Over the years, as the members of the community and long time customers of Rib Shack began to mature, one of the ways the restaurant adjusted with the times is adjusting their delicious but high calorie foods is by offering healthy alternatives. In Southeast Queens in particular, Heart Smart facilitator Dr. Cheryl James said heart disease has become the number one health issue and cause of death. Heart disease however, is something that can be fought off with smarter dieting decisions. This is why Rib Shack proudly holds up a sign that says, “Take control of your health: eat more fish,” reminding patrons that there are always healthy options on the menu.
“Mostly our elderly customers, they’re having a lot of problems with sodium and diabetes,” Agg said. “So we brought in new items like steamed vegetables and salmon. We encourage them to help stay conscious of their diets. Even if it’s eating ribs for five days and eating fish on one, it’s a start. We want to offer a balance.”
Poor Freddie’s Rib Shack is a long time Southeast Queens staple. It is a local business that has come from humble beginning and is proud to be serving the surrounding neighborhoods for as long as it has. They even offer catering for local businesses and events, something that the people have been more than happy to take advantage of.
“We are community oriented,” Agg said. We create food that we think the people will love. We try to make food that is good for your health and good for your soul.”
Curious about Poor Freddie’s Rib Shack? Want to figure out what their secret special ingredient is for their potato salad? Mention that you read about them in the Queens Tribune 2016 Dining Guide and get a free potato salad with any order!
See our honorable mention at the bottom of page 12.