Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jim's Rib Haven

Restaurant: Jim's Rib Haven
Address: 3801 Ames Avenue
Genres: BBQ
Check Constraints: Short order.
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Pulled Pork Sandwich Combo $8.75
  • Coleslaw
  • Drink
Jim's Rib Haven is a fairly small place up on the North side of Omaha. We'd probably never have found it if we hadn't lucked into it on a random Google search for "Omaha BBQ" (see, we're Real Bloggers! We do research and everything). I'm glad we did, because it was a fairly unique take on barbecue, especially for an area where Kansas-City-style seems to be the de facto standard.

For starters, when I ordered my sandwich, I was asked if I wanted mild, medium or hot sauce. Frequent readers will already know which one I picked - for infrequent readers, the answer is always "hot". Once I said this, I got a look from the woman behind the counter which I roughly translated as "You poor fool." She actually gave me a second chance, telling me "The hot is really hot..." to which I could only respond "Then I definitely want the hot." Just in case, I got coleslaw as my side in case I needed some quick heat reduction.

As it turns out, I didn't need it, but the heat in their sauce is palpable and enjoyable. It's a sweet sauce, and after a bit of tasting the three heats, I arrived at the conclusion that it is not unlike Arby's Sauce in its flavor profile - but with a fresher spice flavor to it, and of course the heat. I should mention that despite the three-tiered experience here, none of their three types are devoid of heat, and I could actually taste the heat in the mild sauce (once I had cleared the hot from mine, of course). Anyhow, in summation, the sweet heat of the sauce is an excellent switchup from the standard KC-style sauce. There was a fair bit of it on the sandwich, but it didn't feel like it overwhelmed the meat at all, and I was eating remnants off the wrapper with my fork by the time lunch was over. It should be noted that the "pulled pork" sandwich was more like "sliced pork", with fairly thick slices overlaid on a kaiser roll. The roll was almost not up to the task of containing both meat and sauce (and the whole thing was served piping hot, which didn't help) but it didn't suffer a structural failure. The coleslaw only deserves one line of comment - it was standard wet coleslaw with nothing to recommend it but not much to complain about either.

There are two possible reasons not to go to Jim's, one of which I will address and discard here, and the other of which everyone else will probably touch on, so I'll leave it for them. The reason I'll touch on is price - at almost $9 for a sandwich combo, I would have expected a little more food. On the other hand, for $3 more, you can get one of their rib combos, and get a lot more food for the price. It's not "sold out of the back of a truck" cheap, but it's enough value for the money. Heck, for a sauce like this, it's a bargain.

  • Pulled Pork Sandwich Combo $8.75
It was a crappy day for me to go anywhere, so they brought me back some takeout, and I would like to say that I am very impressed by the fact that the sandwich maintained its integrity all the way here. I'm not a huge fan of the sauce, but it was a very pleasant heat, even to my weakling tastes, and I also tasted the similarity to Arby's sauce. I suppose at heart, I'm really a KC-style boy, on account of having grown up on the stuff. It didn't help my evaluation that it really tore me up that night, either. Even with all that, though, it was still some of the best BBQ I've had in town, even if I wouldn't opt for it over a trip to McKenna's.


  • Half Rack? Back Ribs w/Baked Beans, Fries $13.49?
  • Bottled Drink $1.10?
Alas, I have not the receipt and it's been a while, so I'm roughly guessing. Total with tax was $15.60. I also don't remember exactly how many bones were involved, but they were loose bones.

So I got the medium for my sauce heat. As Cham mentioned, all the sauces had heat, and medium was about as much as I could stand. The actual flavor of the meat and sauce were really good, the heat not overwhelming it at all, and some excellent smoke (it took me my whole drink to get through it, though, on the heat.) The ribs were, unfortunately, surprisingly tough and took some real pulling to get off the bone with my teeth. I'm not sure why, it's actually kinda surprising given the excellence otherwise.

For me, baked beans have been an acquired taste... and these were really, really good. Brown sugar and molasses style baked beans, really deep delicious flavor, I'd recommend them to anyone. The fries were pretty normal, and good for soaking up sauce. Mine also came with toast which served the same purpose.

It still feels a little expensive, even for the ribs I got, but if it weren't for the toughness I would say that simply the uniqueness of the flavor, to me, would make it worth another visit or three anyway if I were down there. As is... I still might give it another shot if I'm in the area. And maybe go for the mild so I'm not guzzling liquid.


  • Half Rack Spare Rib Combo w/ Coleslaw and Potato Salad $12.99
To start, Jim's Rib Haven is very much a takeout joint. The customer area inside the restaurant couldn't have been more than six by ten. They had shallow counters along the walls where they could, but were only able to accomodate about six stools. They fully intend for you to eat elsewhere.

So after hearing Cham's conversation with the bbq jockey about the hot tier of sauce, I went for the mild. It had a pleasant heat that wasn't overhwhelming. I didn't get the note of arby's sauce that the others did, but that's probably because I'm a horsey sauce man. After doing some research, I've realized that I've only ever gotten the St. Louis cut in the past when ordering spare ribs. Here they give you true spareribs: the St. Louis cut plus the ribtips. Each "rib" was as long as my forearm and very meaty. The meat had a good smoke taste, but as Mecha noted was a bit hard to get off the bone. The coleslaw and potato salad were unremarkable.

It does feel a little expensive, but I don't think I'd mind coming back a couple more times.