Tracy and Merry Ann Webb never really intended to open a barbecue rib joint. Both, in fact, had backgrounds in the auto industry with Tracy working for Lexus and Merry Ann at General Motors. When they moved from Kansas City, Missouri to Longmont in Colorado, they both missed the sort of barbecue that they were used to in their hometown, famous for its smoked meats.
The origin of The Rib House was not unlike many restaurateurs who start out from humble beginnings. In Tracy’s case, he had a smoker in the backyard where he would cook his own version of ribs and brisket. Of course, the wafting aroma of smoke led to samples given to neighbors who then started requesting more of his mouth-watering, tasty pork.
In 2001, he saw an ad for a retail space in the trendy, 80-acre urban community of New Town Prospect in Longmont. The rest, as they say, is history.
Customers can order at the front counter and find seating in a couple of expanded areas. The walls are lined with numerous awards including Channel 7’s A-List for the Best Barbecue in Colorado (2007) and Discovery Channel’s Best of Colorado for Barbecue (2015). The one, however, that even caught the owners by surprise was Sunset Magazine’s accolade that bestowed their coveted Top Barbecue in the Western U.S. in 2009.
Tracy is a humble man, reminding people that he is just an average guy from the car industry who loves barbecue.
His secret? He starts with some of the best pork and beef he can find, straight from Iowa. Next it is given a dry rub with his own blend of seasonings. Then he slowly cooks it for 11 to 12 hours over hickory wood which is specially brought in from Missouri since Colorado doesn’t have this kind of tree. When done the meat is fork-tender and literally falls off the bone. Finally, the fat is trimmed so customers can eat everything without getting all “messy from the ribs,” as he puts it.
Add to all this a variety of tomato-based sauces and you have a recipe for success over the years. Tracy and Merry Ann’s loyal clientele includes people who drive from other states like Wyoming and Nebraska, and Hollywood celebrities and businessmen who fly in to a nearby tiny airport from around the world just to eat here.
It’s no surprise that the #1 seller is Tracy’s Famous Illegal Ribs, followed by beef brisket and boneless beef short ribs.
“I also serve something that nobody else has,” says Tracy with a smile. Coming out of the kitchen he holds a basket with two humongous (4 to 5 ounce) chicken wings. “I give these a dry rub, smoke them and crisp them up in the fryer,” he says, which makes them plump, juicy, and delicious.
Tracy is proud of the fact that many of the menu items are gluten free. His staff goes to great lengths to ensure proper procedures are followed to prevent any sort of cross contamination for those who are sensitive or have intolerance to gluten.
The Rib House offers various sides that include mashed potatoes, spicy barbecue beans and the delicious cheesy corn bake, made with fresh corn and a blended cheddar cheese sauce. This dish is one you will want to bring back home in quarts as it tasty and some would say, addictive. No wonder the staff refers to it as “Rib House crack.”
Not content with merely offering some top-drawer smoked meats, Tracy also fancies himself something of a baker. Using recipes from his 82-year-old mother-in-law from Missouri, he creates six-inch tall, three-layer carrot cakes using ingredients like coconut, buttermilk, pineapple, orange juice and, of course, flour and carrots. Top with cream cheese frosting and you have a confection that rarely makes it past the weekend.
For all of their awards, one of the best compliments is when vegetarians come in to grab some ribs. “This is where vegetarians come to cheat,” says Tracy with an impish smile.