If you haven’t been to The Rib-Cage in a while, go back. Regardless of your reason for staying away from this Maumee bistro, it’s time to venture over for an evening of casual, cozy ambiance, a fun, attentive waitstaff and fall-off-the-bone ribs. Or maybe their expertly grilled steaks are more your thing? The subdued, almost stashed-away restaurant is buried in the back of a shopping center off Conant St., and has been operating off and on for roughly 40 years. But over that span, it’s also, for better or worse, changed hands a few times. “We hadn’t been here for many years,” Tracey Saba, the new co-owner of The Rib-Cage, says plainly of the restaurant. “The original owners did very, very well here. Then there was another guy— it didn’t go well.” The restaurant shuttered in 2016. But that attracted the attention of Saba and her husband, Bruce, both notable Toledo restaurateurs. “We decided to check into buying it. And then Brenda [Kaufman], who worked here for 14 years, was looking into buying it as well. And so we decided to do it as a partnership,” explains Saba.
Restoring not remaking
Saba and Kaufman’s first order of business was restoring the eatery to its former glory. “We came in, cleaned it up, painted it and changed the menu a little, but kept the name because it’s been here for so long,” Saba says.They did add a little something to the original name though— it’s now B&T’s Rib Cage, for Brenda and Tracey. They decided to maintain the overall vibe of the restaurant. “Most of the menu is the same. We added a few new things, but obviously we kept the ribs,” Saba says. Even the chef is the same one from the good old days. Head chef Jeff Williams, doesn’t mince words with his assortment of sharp knives: “I’ve been here off and on going on 40 years,” he says. “I got fired from the old restaurant because the guy wanted his stepson to have a job here. His stepson couldn’t cook. They lost all their business and finally, he just closed.”
A life in food
Williams was working at the Holiday Inn across the street when Saba brought him back to the kitchen he knows best. And if her name sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because you’re familiar with her from Saba’s Charcoal House. “I’ve been in the restaurant business all my life— since I was born,” Saba says of her hosting qualifications. For the past nine years, she’s also owned Saba’s Bistro 1705 at the Holiday Inn across the street from B&T’s Rib Cage.
The restaurant reopened February 20 with great improvements across the board. The appetizers are great— notably the cheese bread, worth a visit all by itself. Nearly an entire loaf of golden, buttery, garlic bread is topped with melted cheese and served hot. You’ll eat a piece and find yourself reaching onto the plate to get another before your first is done. The ribeye steak came slightly late— only because Chef Williams felt he’d overcooked it and started another to get it just right. Between overdone food and food that takes an extra few minutes, I’ll take the wait. Williams delivered excellently on the second go-round. We couldn’t hit up B&T’s Rib Cage and not try the namesake ribs though. These baby-back racks aren’t served with a knife because you don’t need one. The succulent meat-rich hunks of swine fell to pieces with little prompting, coming off the bone easily. Pity herbivores who will never know such fine masticating. If you wanna talk dessert, know that you can’t do any better here than the bread pudding. Highly recommended by our waitress, it handily took care of our after-dinner wants. Moist as a sugar-coated sponge and drenched in frosting, this should be your introduction to bread pudding if you’ve never sampled it before.
“We’re hoping to get more people in from the Stranahan Theater, to dine before the shows,” Saba says of the plans for the restaurant’s future. “We’ve had a few in, but it takes a while to get your name out. We want to make sure we have the correct food and the correct staff. I think they’re looking for a light meal before they go to the theater, so that’s why we might change the menu up a little bit. Maybe play with the special and add some lighter appetizers.” Don’t play too much— this menu is a winner.
-Chicken Breast -White Wine -Flour -Garlic, Chopped -Egg -Butter – Parsley -Lemon Juice • Pound out your chicken breast so it’s fairly even in shape and size. • Cover the breast in flour • Take an egg and scramble it • Add some parsley • After you’ve floured your chicken, give it an egg wash • Heat a pan with a bit of oil, get your pan hot • Cook your chicken until lightly brown • Cooking time should be between 15-20 minutes • Add butter, garlic, and a little bit of lemon juice • Add a splash of white wine
Open 4-9:30pm, Monday-Thursday; 4-10:30pm, Friday-Saturday. 144 Chesterfield Lane, Maumee. 419-887-0828. facebook.com/ribcagemaumee