New barbecue restaurant plays the family card

by Brian Clarey

Greensboro’s restaurant patrons are notorious for several things, chief among them being the desire to be seated by 7 p.m. on weekends and to always order more bread whether they plan to eat it or not.

And those who pay attention to the fickle tastes of the casual diner will also note two other truisms: People in Greensboro love chain restaurants and they will always stand in line for good barbecue.

So the soft opening of Shane’s Rib Shack last week was probably the last time a customer could get in there during peak hours and score an easy table.

Shane’s is indeed a chain, from the same corporate family that spawned Doc Green’s Gourmet Salads, a franchise that opened in Greensboro a couple days later, and Moe’s Southwest Grill, which has an outpost in the same strip mall as Shane’s.

The storyline that fronts the corporate entity centers around Shane, the beefy, apple-cheeked founder who, according to the restaurant’s website, ‘“quit his high fallutin corporate job’… to make a dream come true.’”

Shane, whose family pictures are posted on the site as well as on the walls of his newest restaurant, is said to have gained inspiration for the venture from his grandfather, Dewey ‘“Big Dad’” Brown, former Clemson footballer and chief of police in Decatur, Ga. and custodian of the recipe for the secret sauce.

They won’t tell you the recipe, by the way, so don’t even ask. But Big Dad’s words of wisdom are free to all: ‘“You only get a good reputation once. You better make the most of it.’”

The family card is played pretty heavily in this organization ‘— the word appears no fewer than 20 times on the site and they attest that franchises are opened in mostly suburban areas and designed to appeal to everyone from grandpa to junior.

The spot in the strip mall on Wendover, though it looks fairly generic from the outside, actually feels a bit like someone’s house inside. The front ordering area is partitioned like a screen porch and the staff is cheery and friendly, even on their first day of work, which is nice and all but the real test is whether they feed you like you’re blood.

Fortunately, the food at Shane’s is of the quality and abundance one would expect from a family backyard gathering.

Most of us at the table ordered the sandwich named for Big Dad, a formidable pile of pulled pork sandwiched between a couple slices of buttered Texas toast. The meat was tender and flavorful and meshed well with the trio of barbecue sauces: original, which was thick but vinegary with a mild spice; hot, which added a peppery essence; and spicy with a little sweet (seriously, that’s what it said on the squeeze bottle), which in our opinion was a perfect mix of flavor.

The ribs were not on the menu at this soft opening but staff members circulated the floor with samples. The recipe is, of course, a family secret, but the ribs appeared to be prepared with both a rub and a sauce. They were definitely cooked over (or perhaps under) a flame, charring them in all the right places and giving them a satisfying texture throughout.

There’s something primal about eating meat off the bone, gnawing the gristle and sucking the marrow. It’s the only way to eat ribs, in our opinion, and there’s sure to be a lot of that going on at Shane’s. In anticipation of this, there are paper towel rolls on the tables and they’re not stingy with the wet-naps.

For those who shy away from the swine, they also offer chicken in the forms of barbecue, chopped, tenders, wings and salad. Sides include collard greens, slaw, mac and cheese, Brunswick stew and baked beans. The dessert menu on this day was limited to peach cobbler but should eventually expand to other items like cookies and brownies.

Although none of us were familiar with Shane’s before we ate there (the only other North Carolina franchise is in Charlotte, with one planned for Raleigh soon) we were very happy with the fare and it’s likely that in Greensboro, where chain restaurants consistently outperform the smaller independents and the discipline of barbecue is afforded its own food group, the place should do well.

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