Bare Bones Grill & Brewery

$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

The separate entrance for carryout at Bare Bones Grill & Brewery is a testament to the popularity of this Ellicott City joint's carnivorous offerings. The cholesterol-conscious -- or vegetarian, for that matter -- should steer clear. Even the signature salad ($9.99) at this strip-mall pub is loaded with crumbled bacon, cheddar cheese, fried tortilla chips and five ounces of chicken, all topped with honey mustard dressing.

Appetizers include the onion loaf, a portion of onion rings the size of two bricks ($6.29, $5.29 for one brick); buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing ($7.99); and an oversize pretzel smothered in crab dip and melted cheese ($8.49). There's a quartet of starters ($12.99) meant for sharing: crab dip with crusty bread, potato skins with cheddar and bacon, mozzarella sticks fried in beer batter and a few routine slabs of white meat "chicken fingers."

The ribs here are the main attraction, available in four sizes ($8.99, appetizer portion of four or five ribs; $11.99, lunch portion with two sides; $18.99, dinner portion with two sides; $20.99 for a full 15-rib rack with two sides). Brushed with a pleasant, smoky-sweet sauce, the meat is succulent and not too fatty, and so tender you can practically shake it off the bone.

Most everything, including sandwiches, comes with a choice of two sides that include sweet baked butter beans, fries, coleslaw or deep-fried beer-batter corn puffs. Add a tossed green salad or a Caesar for $2.50.

Bare Bones was opened in 1988 by Joe Reese and Steve McClune, fraternity brothers who studied food service at Penn State and share a passion for ribs.If the place, with its exuberant embrace of red meat and beer batter, seems a little dated, the clientele doesn't seem to mind. General manager (and daughter of the owner) Alison McClune says she doesn't have to mess with the menu -- even the Bare Bones salad, which is anything but. The restaurant sells about 175 of them a day.

-- Martha Thomas (Good to Go, June 2010)