Restaurant Review: CHICAGO RIB SHACK (Aldgate East)

Chicago Rib Shack Ribs

An excellent rib joint just minutes from the City - ribs that you can probably smell at your desk!

There have been so many times when I’ve dined in a restaurant only to be left feeling not fully satisfied and still a bit hungry. Well a visit to Chicago Rib Shack is quite the opposite - I left very full and extremely satisfied, read more to see why.

Chicago Rib Shack has just opened it’s fifth London location, right near Aldgate East tube station. Already with a presence in almost every direction in London (Stratford, Clapham, Camden and Twickenham, and they’re also in Leeds), Chicago Rib Shack is changing the way ribs are eaten in London. Their ribs are smoked over applewood chips for a minimum of six hours in a wood burning oven at 107 degrees celsius. So you have a taste of nicely-smoked ribs with the option of adding as much BBQ sauce as you want.

On a Thursday night visit to the newly-opened (two weeks) Aldgate East location, the restaurant was jam packed. Evidently word had gotten out that on this otherwise unfriendly and bland street a few minutes walk to the tube station was a brand spanking new American-style rib joint. Even when you’re walking by the smell of ribs is so strong and powerful that if that doesn’t lure you in then you’re sense of smell needs to be checked by a doctor.

The beef ribs did not disappoint. The two on my plate were massive, extremely tender and wonderfully large. These particular ribs are smoked for 18 hours and arrive on the plate moist and meaty. BBQ sauce brought to the table is optional, and while the sauce is one of the best I’ve ever had - not too thick and overpowering - I just had to eat the meat on it’s own to get the full effect of the flavour. Delicious. If this is too much meat for you, then the baby back ribs might be your style. Lean and much smaller, they are light and lovely. The beef ribs are worth every pound of the £19 price, while a half portion are a snip at £10. I had initially wanted to order the £18 Thick Cut Belly Ribs, but they had run out and it was only 8pm! Hopefully the restaurant will realize that they need to cook enough to last all night! If you don’t fancy ribs then perhaps a burger (classic cheese at £7.5 or shack stack with double patty, potato cakes, onion rings, egg, avocado and cheese for a whopping £16). Or perhaps the rump steak (£18), cobb salad (£8/£13), griddled chicken (£13) or Catfish (£12).

As sides we ordered pulled pork spring rolls (£6) and crispy catfish (£6). Both were very good, very delicate, and not too overpowering (especially the catfish, which was nicely breaded and not too fishy tasting). They’re served with a cajun sauce but it’s very spicy - try the BBQ sauce instead - it’s a better accompaniment. The Onion Loaf was the most amazing ever! Baked Caramelised onion, it literally looked like a loaf of bread - crispy, very big and absolutely amazing (only £6). The coleslaw was perfect - not overwhelmingly creamy (£4) and the handmade BBQ beans were tasty and good (£3.5). Also on the side menu were fries, mash, and mac & cheese. When you order expect your food to come all at once. Our table was literally overflowing with dishes!

Chicago Rib Shack Shakes

I had absolutely no room for dessert but stuffed down a Lemon Pot - a lemon curd with lemon biscuit chunks, vanilla ice cream and chantilly cream served in a jam jar - a lovely and sweet dessert, and was an absolute perfect ending to a perfect dinner.

I can’t stress how delicious the meal me and my dining companion had. While she felt that the spring rolls and catfish were a bit flavorless, (they’re probably meant to be because they’re served with a side of sauce) - we were both amazed at how delicious the ribs and onion loaf were, and how reasonably priced it all was, and how thirst quenching the Nojito (a non-alcoholic mojito) was, at just £4.50. Their drinks menu is, as you would expect, full of many different types of drinks - classics such as cosmos, martini’s, peach teas, among others. Their signature drinks have intriguing names such as Four Roses Milk Punch, Rib Shack Fizz, Jungle Bird, Paper Planes and Cane ’N’ Oil - all that need to be tried during multiple visits! They also serve all sorts of shakes and the usual wines, bubbles, ciders, beers and soft drinks and juices. The root beer float (£4) is a signature American drink that must must be tried, either with your meal or for dessert! A must!

The Aldgate branch is smartly designed - open planned, with the bar straight ahead as you walk in and the open kitchen inside on the left. But with the open kitchen comes the issue of the whole place smelling of meat! Don’t be surprised that when you leave your clothes and hair will have the smell of meat. Make sure you don't have any dogs following you home! The tables are nicely laid out in the restaurant, with free standing tables that I urge you to sit at. We sat in the mashed up back section, next to a table of four rowdy bankers - the tables were a bit too close to each other, enough so that when someone got we had to hold the table down to make sure their bum didn't knock down our drinks and condiments.

Chicago Rib Shack is stomach-busting food at affordable prices. It’s a trendy hip joint for meat lovers, food that is perfectly cooked and willingly devoured. And some of the branches (including the Aldgate branch) serve brunch. I’ll be back their either again for dinner or brunch once my waistline returns back to normal!