Stick to your, well, ribs

Vandalia’s Original Rib House

By Paula Johnson

Photo: The Ribs and Chicken Combo dinner at Original Rib House in Vandalia

The dining room of the Original Rib House in Vandalia reminds you of nothing so much as the 1970s sitcom The Brady Bunch. The harvest gold and rust brown interior of what was once a Frisch’s places the Rib House firmly back in the era of Carol and Mike. (I didn’t get a peek at the kitchen but I would bet the appliances were avocado.) Nothing appears to have been updated. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any Alice running the housekeeping for the restaurant. Her services are badly needed. Everything seemed to be in need of a good dusting.

Alice was the Brady’s housekeeper, and also the family cook. You always had the feeling that Alice did a good basic job. Nothing fancy, just plain edible family fare. And that’s exactly what you will get dining at The Original Rib House.

PIP (Palate In Progress) and I stopped in for an early dinner on a recent Saturday. We were greeted by a hostess and led to the main family dining area. Decorated with local historical photos, the place has the neighborhood diner vibe down pat.

As the name suggests, Rib House specializes in barbecue. But the menu is more extensive than just that, and touts their broasted chicken as a stand out. Broasting, a patented process which is a hybrid of pressure cooking and deep frying, was introduced to the American restaurant scene in the 1970s.

From our booth we could hear the steady ring of chicken orders being placed. (It was easy to imagine the Brady family phoning in an order on Alice’s night off!)

Cluck yeah!

Broasting is not a cooking technique you can easily try at home – the equipment is sold only to the trade. The result should be chicken with a crispy, non-greasy outside coating and very juicy interior meat.

Rib House’s chicken was just that. I sampled their appetizer wing pieces (.85 per piece), which can be eaten plain or with the three BBQ sauces: original hot, spicy or sweet. All three sauces were tasty, though the original was not particularly hot.

PIP tried the Onion Straws ($5.49). It’s one of the most popular menu items, and for good reason. Marinated and lightly battered, the deep fried golden tangle was way more than enough to share for the two of us. PIP also tried the French onion soup ($5.29). We found it to be pretty standard – thin, salty broth with croutons and melted cheese.

I looked forward to more chicken with my entree choice of the Ribs and Chicken Combo ($14.99) while PIP tried the 1/2 Pound Pulled Bar-B-Q Pork ($13.49). All entrées are served with two sides. We both tried the macaroni and cheese and found it regrettably bland and mushy. I chose a salad to sample one of Rib House’s three house-made dressings (they also list five more which are not made in house). The creamy blue cheese dressing didn’t taste much different than commercially produced versions, and was a 75-cent up-charge. PIP’s baked beans were not quite as sweet as I would have liked and had a few too many chunks of meat for a side dish.

Smoke doesn’t get in your eyes

On to the barbecue: If you are a fan of smoke, you won’t get a whiff of it here. Rib House uses a dry rub and gas grill broiling technique to prepare their ribs and chicken. The resulting ribs were not fall-off-the-bone tender, in fact a bit chewy, but not unpleasant. I enjoyed topping them off with a combination of the sweet and hot sauces. The additional note of some smoky flavoring would have definitely helped the pulled pork.

“It reminds me of the pulled pork your grandma would make in a crock pot,” was PIP’s assessment. Very true, but the addition of some of Rib House’s sauces breathed some new life into the somewhat watery and bland meat.

Our service was less than stellar, though our young server was pleasant. While I don’t hold a casual family style restaurant to the same standard as a white tablecloth establishment, informing the table of the day’s specials is expected anywhere. Our water glasses remained empty through most of the meal and our entrées were served before we were ready for them. There’s an art to good serving no matter which type of restaurant you are working in, and sadly, most servers don’t get sufficient training to be good at their jobs.

Anyway you slice it

However, our server did remember to offer dessert, and I was looking forward to trying the sour cream apple pie ($3.75) and the lemon chess pie ($3.50). They were both satisfying, the apple topped with a sweet cinnamon streusel, but the lemon chess was my favorite. Chess pie seems to be a more southern dessert despite being brought to the colonies from England. The name Chess probably comes from “pie chest,” a repository for cooling and keeping pies. Typically it’s made with buttermilk, eggs, sugar and cornmeal, which gives it a unique texture. This pie had a nice bright lemony flavor, and both pies had a good homemade taste.

It’s easy to see why the Rib House has engendered a dedicated local following when you consider some of its menu options. For the budget conscious or those wanting a smaller meal, the lunch menu is available anytime. They also offer “9 Great Meals Around 11 Dollars,” a selection of entrées with two sides (Regular menu items range from $12.25 for a Boneless Pork Chop with Onion Straws to a $21.99 New York Strip.) It’s a great way to appeal to a range of appetites and bank accounts. On Wednesdays they serve a changing entrée not on the menu, described as “something your mom would make.”

They even encourage diners to suggest what they’d like to have, another thing that contributes to the informal hominess of the place.

If you are looking for novel twists on old standards, The Original Rib House isn’t for you. However, if you’re looking for ample servings of comfort food at a very reasonable price, you will find it there.

The Original Rib House is located at 275 E. National Road in Vandalia. For more information, please call 937.898.4601 or visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Paula Johnson at

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at

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