Barbecued ribs used to be offered infrequently at restaurants here, and were served mainly in specialty houses or as appetizers at Chinese restaurants. No longer. It seems as though every slick new watering hole features baby back ribs, along with fried zucchini and potato skins.

The Rib is one of the few places that were serving barbecued ribs a decade before the craze hit, and they're still turning them out, seven days a week. The ribs are still good -- meaty, lean, moist, nicely flavored, and with a choice of several good sauces. (Five, actually, which is an unusually broad array.)

The small dining room, with its formica tables, hard chairs, paper napkins, and walls adorned with 8-by-10s of local celebrities, isn't particularly memorable. But the waitresses know their business, so the service tends to be fast and efficient.

There are three early-bird special dinners from 5 to 6:30 p.m. every day: a half-rack of barbecued baby back ribs or strip steak at $6.95, or barbecued chicken at $5.95. The ribs are excellent (a full rack is available at $13.95), but the chicken is the real bargain.

The order is half an immense bird (grown by Perdue, according to the menu), admirably succulent, beautifully barbecued, with a crusty, flavorful skin. The early-bird steak, on the other hand, is thin, textureless and flavorless, and should be avoided.

The early-bird dinners also include onion soup (poor), french fries (passable), cole slaw (decent but soupy), a roll (as in hamburger roll) and ice cream. Even if you pass up the soup and ignore the roll, that chicken is still a good buy.

Don't forget a side-order of onion rings (the small size will serve several people). They're properly light and not greasy, and the onion inside the nicely fragile batter is sweet and lively. First class.

Ribs and chicken aren't the only things they barbecue well here. There's an excellent combination barbecue platter at $12.95, with tender back ribs, thin sliced beef brisket and excellent, well-trimmed pork. Or you can have the brisket or the pork as sandwiches, the former served with Texas-style barbecue sauce, the latter with a zinger of a vinegar-Tabasco sauce.

If you're lucky the waitress will bring you little dishes of all five barbecue sauces for dipping and sampling -- on request. The Chicago style is mildly sweet and hot, with what tastes like celery seed; Texas style is more piquant, hotter, sweeter and tart with vinegar; hickory smoke and hot chili are as they sound; and sweet and sour, the most interesting of the five, is like a western-style chutney, with chunks of fruit.

Although desserts are made elsewhere, there are some respectable choices. The chocolate mousse pie, for example, is nicely dark and deep-flavored, with a matching chocolate-cookie crust. The carrot cake is good, too, with plenty of raisins and nuts. Dad's apple pie, on the other hand, is limp-crusted and gummy. We wouldn't wish it on anyone's father.