(Editor’s Note: This review is not sponsored by McDonald’s, but it could be. Hit me up, Ron.)
Going into this review, the first ground rule that the Shameless Consumer must throw down is that I love ribs, but I’m not a fan of rib sandwiches. Why? Because I love ribs, and part of the experience of eating a rack of ribs is ripping the meat from the bone like an animal. It’s one of the few times you really get to eat with your hands, like corn on the cob or a nice heavy chowder soup.
Rib sandwiches, meanwhile, very rarely have any actual rib meat in them. They’re like the blondes of the fast food world, you constantly find yourself wondering if they’re natural or not. In the case of the McRib, the meat is actually various parts you wouldn’t think about from the pig, like the heart, stomach, etc. It’s tasty, but it’s not a rib. For Banquet’s rib patties, I assume it’s mostly taint, eyeballs, and tongue drippings that the butcher’s dog chewed up before losing its appetite.
Back in 2005, McDonald’s held a competition where they asked the public to submit their own backstory for the McRib. In reality, this is because McDonald’s doesn’t have the story on file, and they were hoping some smarty pants would point it out in an effort to look smart. Their historian tragically left the company in 2012 after someone ate his last ice cream he’d kept in the freezer for a Friday pick-me-up, you know the Popsicle Sprinklers? They don’t make them anymore, and who the hell does Rich from accounting think he is eating someone else’s ice cream when just last week he’d been whining about people drinking his San Pellegrino, reminding everyone how expensive the prickly pear flavor is. But that’s neither here nor there.
Thankfully Shameless Consumer Industries has built a reputation on stealing corporate secrets and hiding them away in our vault, never to be released unless a review demands it. The real history behind the McRib is pretty boring, dating back to 1956 with the honoring of Marshall Cleyton Ribinski, Barbecue Lord of Wilmington Delaware. Marshall Ribinski’s life was saved responding to an armed robbery at a local diner that he just so happened to be patronizing, when a bullet aimed for his ribs was deflected by a jar of barbecue sauce.
Ribinski disarmed the thief with a well aimed pork rib, cementing his status as Barbecue Lord and from that point on everyone in town called him Marshall McRib. Since Marshall McRib took on his duties across numerous towns in Delaware, he only showed up for a little while every couple of years, and as such he became something of a legend whenever he did appear in town. Incidentally the Marshall’s arrival seemed to coincide with low pork prices, but that could just be an old wive’s tale.
In August of 1980, the Marshall decided to eat lunch at a local McDonald’s while doing his rounds in Smyrna, Delaware. Confused when the Marshall was greeted by an old friend in line, the cashier mistakenly placed an order for a McRib, which the chef naturally did not know how to cook. The issue was sent up the corporate line to Michael Quinlain himself, who found interest in the idea of a McRib and ordered the McDonald’s McResearch and McDevelopment team to McFigure it out. After briefly fighting over who got to lick the spoon, the team produced a boneless rib sandwich and the rest, as they say, is history. The first McRib was actually served in Smyrna in 1981, although not to Marshall Ribinski as his wife was no longer allowing him to eat high cholesterol foods by that point.
We know that McDonald’s supports our boys in blue as the McRib itself is a living reminder of Marshall Ribinski. You may have seen the four stripes on the McRib and thought that they were supposed to represent rib bones. They aren’t, that would be disgusting to simulate bones in a sandwich. Rather, you’ll notice that each McRib always has four points. This is to signify the four times that the Marshall had responded to cases at the McDonald’s in Smyrna. The odd addition of pickles is to honor Delaware, where Vlasic’s manufacturing plant remained in Milsboro until 2012. The onions are in honor of ancient Delaware beliefs that onions and pork could cure inflammation and soreness, effectively qualifying the McRib as a health food. As for the sauce, well sometimes you just have to keep a secret.
And you all thought that the McRib looks this way by luck.
But today we’re talking about the Fast Bites barbecue rib sandwich, not so much the John Lennon of rib sandwiches as it is the Yoko Ono. Its ingredient list is longer than your average Grateful Dead concert and contains 2% or less of the following products: food, but it does have enough acid to satisfy a crowd of disappointed Woodstock hippies. Maybe that’s the problem, the Shameless Consumer didn’t do enough acid before eating the sandwich.
Naturally the rib sandwich looks nothing like it does on the box, much like hooking up with someone you found on Tinder only to realize that the photo was taken five years ago of her twin sister, the one who actually took care of herself.
The sandwich itself is actually rather boring, its barbecue sauce is the same generic stuff that you find in every frozen barbecue meat. It’s tomato based, sweet, and not awful but highly generic. As for the pork patty itself, I’d get a more satisfying grill mark by setting it down on hot pavement and letting it cook for a good hour or so. So I did, the flavor increased tenfold.
Unfortunately the bun was terrible, becoming hard in the microwave and chewy. Ultimately, the Fast Bites Barbecue Rib Sandwich fulfills its role: a cheap $1 rib sandwich for when you’re drunk and out of money, and McDonald’s doesn’t feel like selling the McRib. It isn’t nauseating, like the Dollar Store Steak, but that’s a story for another day.
Verdict: 1/5 – Generic barbecue sauce with generic low quality tasting pork. Not the dollar store steak.