Atmosphere: Happy and vibrant.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday; noon to 2 a.m. Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Price range: $2.95 to $9.75. Less for luncheon portions on most offerings.
Reservations: Not needed.
Credit cards: American Express, Mastercard, Visa.
Special facilities: Accessible to handicapped; booster seats; takeout orders available.
When you open the door to H. I. Ribster's, you are greeted by the pulsating beat of nostalgic Top 40 tunes from the '60s and '70s. If that's what you like, you'll have found a happy place to dine.
The decor is simple and somewhat understated, a good point in a restaurant as busy and crowded as Ribster's was on a recent Friday night. Plain paneled walls and etched glass separations between booths keep background noise subdued. On the walls are a few pictures, mostly old covers from the Saturday Evening Post.
We were told we'd have a 5- to 10-minute wait for our party of five. We declined a suggestion that we have a drink at the bar, and were seated in three or four minutes. A booster seat was immediately produced for my granddaughter, and we all felt completely at ease in an unusually roomy booth.
Orders were taken promptly, and the service throughout was quick and efficient.
My husband chose the steak tidbits ($6.25) and I selected pan-fried brook trout ($4.65). My son and daughter-in-law both decided to go with the specialty of the house: barbecued baby backribs ($8.65). Since there is no children's menu, we ordered a ribster burger ($3.25) for my granddaughter.
All selections are served with french fries and cole slaw. We also had a small order of onion rings ($1.65).
The french fries were disappointing, everyone agreed. Completely saltless, they were also tasteless; with a generous sprinkling of salt, they were just fair.
My fish, however, was delicate, tender and properly cooked to bring out the flavor. With a touch of lemon, it was delicious.
My husband pronounced his steak tidbits only so-so. Perhaps had rice been served to soak up what he considered an over-generous amount of gravy, he would have liked it better.
The ribs, advertised as "ribs with spirit," received the most plaudits. My son said they were as good as any he had tasted: tasty and pungent and already separated, which made them easy to eat.
My granddaughter's verdict on her ribster burger was completely positive: She ate every crumb, including most of the pita bread and all of the fries. The bite I swiped was delicious.
We all agreed on the slaw, dividing it into two categories: flavor--rich but not greasy; texture--too coarsely chopped. Big hunks of stalk constantly got in the way of what might have been a truly good slaw. The restaurant could use a better processor.
The generous portion of french-fried onion rings was served piping hot. The first plump samples were wonderful, but little pools of floury grease spoiled the ones on the bottom. They would have been better had they been drained on absorbent paper before being served.
We were surprised that no desserts were available. A choice of ice creams would help, particularly in view of the many children who were there with their parents.
By and large, there were many more pluses than minuses. And for a new restaurant, with others in the franchise expected to follow, I think that's pretty good.
Our bill for five, including taxes and tip, was $46.65.