The aroma coming from The Ripon Road House rib orders is enough to tempt the taste buds of any restaurant connoisseurs coming through the front door of the downtown Main Street façade.
The popular dinner location complete with an L-shaped bar is going on its fifth year in the community.
Chef Justin Hacker and his sous-chef Mellissa Mersaroli demonstrate a shared passion to please the palate of their clientele on a daily basis – filling the house on Friday and Saturday nights.
Hacker has been professionally cooking for 10 years, obtaining his degree through Modesto Junior College. Before coming to Ripon, he worked at the celebrated Firkin and Beaver Restaurant in Tracy.
One of the things that add to the delightful taste of his ribs today is his brazing them in an Asian mix of juices and pappy seasoning turning out more than 30 orders a week for that particular style in the restaurant. His dining public raves mostly about the barbecue and Asian styles of ribs with most commenting about the tenderness of the meat.
The available side orders include onion rings, fries, seasonal veggies and ranch beans.
“We throw our ribs on a flat top grill, caramelizing the brazing liquid and Asian juice along with the sugar from the seasoning,” he said. “A full rack of ribs has 16 bones that we put on a plate and then sauce them.”
Sauces include sweet chili, chopped peanuts and cilantro – barbecue sauce is still the old favorite, he added.
“We braze them for 3 ½ hours and we serve them (out of the kitchen) within 12 minutes from the time they were ordered at a table,” he noted. Six racks are brazed prior to the dinner hour with the expectation of a half dozen orders from customers.
The ribs are billed on the menu as the “Austin Blues Ribs.” The Southern-style extra-saucy, extra sassy racks of pork ribs are slathered in Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce. Or, they come with Asian-inspired Sweet Thai Chili Sauce topped with chopped peanuts, green onions and cilantro.
The price is $23.99 a plate.
The highlight of Hacker’s tenure at the Ripon Road House surrounds the memory of a Ripon lady named Johanna, who celebrated her birthdays from 99 to 103 at the restaurant and was seen waiting outside the door before it first opened.
“All she wanted were French fries and a glass of water – her family brought the birthday cake,” he said.
The assistant chef, Mellissa Mersaroli, of Modesto, attended Leader Wolf Culinary Academy in Sacramento before her 17th birthday and later the Institute of Technology in Modesto obtaining an AA degree in Science becoming an instructor in its advanced program years ago.
With the ribs being at the top of the menu, other entrées include any steak, “Roadhouse-Style” covered, smothered and covered, served on a bed of sautéed mushrooms and onions topped with melting blue cheese crumbles, bacon and green onion crust at $5.99. And homemade from “Mom’s Recipe” is a hearty meatloaf at $11.99.