Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ottawa Ribfest 2012


My younger brother, Andrew, and I took a little visit to Sparks Street and brought home some BBQ goodies for the family dinner. We only went to two different stalls: Bibb’s BBQ and Camp 31. Our plan of attack was to get two full rack meals (that’s with coleslaw and beans) and a half-pound of pulled pork. We weren't going to get any chicken because they're not that flavourful. They get baked in the oven and then sit on the grill, absorbing whatever smoke there is, and get finished with a mop of sauce when it's ordered. If you do buy bottled BBQ sauce from the stands, then baked chicken wouldn't be a bad idea.

If you haven't gone yet or you're planning to go, but you aren't sure what to expect, head over to this post where I wrote down some tips.


Starting from Metcalfe and Sparks Street, we walked westward down Spark Street to do some scouting at Ottawa's 21st annual ribfest. The first stall we came upon was Bibb’s BBQ. Since we were there while most government employees were still at work, there were only two people waiting in line. We walked by a few more stalls before reaching O'Connor. I can't remember which ones though. Sorry. I just wanted to find Camp 31 and Bibb's BBQ, buy our stuff and go home as quickly as possible.



After crossing O’Connor, there was a porta-potty and porta-sink off to the side (correct me if I’m wrong… btw, I forgot to take a photo so I’m just reusing the pic from last year). We passed a few picnic tables on Sparks Street. It looks like the organizers of the event had put them out – at least I think they did. The picnic tables weren’t closed off and it didn’t look like it was part of any restaurant. In any case, walking by the tables, we found ourselves walking through some smoke. Silver Bullet’s grill was smoking away. All that baked chicken must’ve been absorbing the smoke as they waited for an owner.



Camp 31’s stand had the longest line when Andrew and I walked there. It seemed like more people were starting to flood in. Not needing to go any further down Sparks Street, we joined the line that was merely 8 people long.

Sandwiched between Camp 31's stand and Silver Bullet's stand, the Alabama’s Freshly Squeezed Lemonade stall sold cold lemonade. If I recall correctly, they were selling small lemonades for $4.00 and $6.00 for the large.


As we waited in line, I debated whether or not I wanted to buy another bottle of Camp 31’s Rajin’ Cajun BBQ sauce or to try another flavour (you could try samples of all of their sauces before you decided). We only had a few more drops left of the bottle I purchased last year. In the end, we decided we’d buy a bottle at Bibb’s BBQ instead. We bought a full rack of ribs meal ($24) and a full pound of pulled pork ($12). They didn’t sell half a pound.

We walked back to Bibb’s BBQ, bought another full rack meal and bought a bottle of their BBQ sauce. They only had one flavour – the one they use on their ribs and chicken. The three environmentally-friendly takeout boxes were stacked into a grocery bag and then we went back home to enjoy the goods. More after the hop...


On our way home, we dropped by Metro and got a baguette (to eat with the pulled pork) and a Caesar salad kit. Mom also sautéed some button mushrooms, zucchini, onions and red peppers with some vegetable oil and butter for some much-needed vegetal matter.


This was the first look at the ribs from Bibb’s BBQ.




These were Camp 31’s pound of pulled pork and full rack meal.


Upon further inspection, Camp 31’s ribs looked the same as the previous years; there wasn’t much sauce and the ribs were visibly drier and smaller.

Whereas the ribs from Bibb’s BBQ looked so meaty, juicy, tender, and easy to eat. It looked like these ribs were double the size of Camp 31's ribs.


Snap out of it! Give yourself a break and look at all this lettuce for a second before we move on…

Are you okay? Are you sure? Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Okay, moving on...

Moar vegetal matter!


So with everything on the table, we just loaded up our own plates, as we usually do. My plate wasn't as packed.



My plate began with a rib, some beans and coleslaw from Bibb’s BBQ and some Caesar salad. Then I added one rib, some pulled pork, beans and coleslaw from the Camp 31 box. That was all I needed. That filled me. In fact, I’m still full even after six hours. As I said before, I don't like ribs that much.

The reason why we only went with two places this year was because it was cheaper than getting half rack meals from a bunch of places. Plus, the half racks are usually served in a flimsy french fry dish. I don't know what they're called. We went with Camp 31 because it has been one of our family's favourites in the past years. Bibb's BBQ was chosen because I thought they had won it last year, when in fact, Billy Bones are the defending champions of the best ribs and sauce at Ottawa's ribfest. If it's your first time going, I'd probably suggest trying the defending champions first and then try other ribs. But just because one stand is the defending champs, it won't mean that you'll like them.

Between Bibb's BBQ and Camp 31, Mom and I preferred Bibb's ribs better because the meat wasn't dry. Although in saying that, Mom and I both liked flavour infused in Camp 31's ribs. Their longer smoking method (I'm assuming) was like a double-edged sword. Perhaps they can try smoking it for less time and slather that awesome Rajin' Cajun sauce on it instead. Bibb's ribs needed the extra BBQ sauce that Andrew pumped (most stands have a table to the side where there's a container of BBQ sauce you can pump onto your order, napkins/paper towels, and durable plastic forks). Although their ribs were juicy and tender, they were on the bland side. Mom wasn't very impressed and claimed that her ribs were similar (they're really not).

Camp 31's pulled pork didn't really appeal to me. Lucy had it for lunch yesterday and requested that we pick some up. I'm sure it wasn't the same "fatty, crispy, saucy, tender" pulled pork she had. There were some crispy parts, but I'd say they were more crunchy and chewy. My jaw got sore from chewing a particularly drier end piece. The tender bits of pulled pork tasted pretty good with the caesar salad. While the pulled pork wasn't as sweet as we had in the past, I still didn't really like it. Andrew mentioned that it reminded him of pork floss (rousong or ba yong in Teochew). Hmm... I wonder if Grandma's legendary pork floss would make good pulled pork...

The coleslaw from Camp 31 was very bland. As for Bibb's uninspiring coleslaw, it needed more vinegar but that's a personal preference.

I can't remember what the beans tasted like. You'll have to forgive me. My head is a bit hazy right now. I'll have to sleep on it... and get back to this later...

Hey, random fact: Go back exactly 100 blog posts and you'll find our write-up of the 2011 ribfest! Weird.

Read about our experiences of the past competitions:

As ribfest continues until Sunday, Ottawa's dragon boat festival (at Mooney's Bay) begins tomorrow will also run until Sunday! It's free admission to the grounds. You'll be able to watch the dragon boats race from the stands or from the beach, if you'd like, and there are various of bands playing too. I'll do some scouting tomorrow but until then, read what I wrote about last year's festival.


  1. My fiance and I are going to go to Ribfest for the first time this year. Your posts have been really helpful! Thank you for sharing! :)

  2. Hi Megan, enjoy your first experience at Ottawa's ribfest! I'm glad you found the posts helpful. During our first few ribfests, we looked so lost and just followed the crowds.


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