A Rib Nation of 500,000 ‘cue lovers converged on the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, Nev., last Wednesday through Monday for the 26th annual Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off, the biggest such throw-down in the country. Along the way, the hungry crowds took on 240,000 pounds of St. Louis-style pork ribs, rubbed, smoked and sauced by 23 professional cooking teams that travel a national circuit.
All along Victorian Avenue over the extended Labor Day “weekend,” thousands of people lined up at the cookers’ massive storefronts to buy ribs and pulled pork sandwiches. Fragrant wood smoke filled the air, beer flowed, onion rings and funnel cakes sizzled in hot oil, endless ears of roasted corn were plunged into melted butter, and live music played on several stages.
On Sunday, a panel of judges sampled ribs and sauces from all the competitors, and scored them according to strict criteria in order to choose the winners. The six-day event — considered the most prestigious rib-cooking contest in the U.S. — culminated Monday on Victorian Square at the Nugget, when hotel officials announced the winners to a cheering crowd.
More valuable than the cash prizes and trophies are the braggin’ rights that accompany the victories; they translate into big-time rib sales to the public down the line.
This year’s winners were:
First place: Desperado’s BBQ & Rib Co. of Hinckley, Ohio: $7,500
Second place: Bone Daddy’s BBQ of Midland, Mich.: $3,000
Third place: Famous Dave’s BBQ of Plymouth, Minn.: $2,000
Fourth Place: Butch’s Smack Your Lips BBQ of Mt. Laurel, N.J.: $1,000
Fifth Place: Checkered Pig BBQ of Martinsville, Va.: $500
People’s Choice Award: Back Forty Texas Barbeque of Pleasant Hill, Ca.
Best Sauce: Porky-N-Beans BBQ Company of Port St. Lucie, Fla: $500, the second year in a row for the honor.
The 27th annual rib cook-off is scheduled for Sept. 2-7, 2015. For reservations, event history and information: (800) 648-1177 or (775) 356-3300, or www.nuggetribcookoff.com.