It was my first visit to Red, Hot & Blue on Main Street in Laurel, but I quickly learned what my friends already knew--ribs aren't the only thing Red, Hot & Blue does well. There are plenty of other choices--from grilled chicken to catfish to vegetable salads--so even non-meat eaters can find something to try.
We started with the house beer, named appropriately Red, Hot & Blue brew, as our helpful waitress, Kelly, walked us through the menu. Then we turned to the combination appetizer: smoked sausage, Memphis chicken drummies, onion loaf and jalapeno cheese served with spicy ranch dressing ($5.95). We all agreed that the smoked sausage (spicy and hot) was our favorite part of the sampler. It is also available as a platter ($6.95) or sandwich ($5.25) and next time I will be ordering one of them. According to Kelly, the combo appetizer and the Red, Hot & Blue nachos ($5.50) are the favorites among her customers, and they'll be on my wish list too.
Then it was time for the ribs! Red, Hot & Blue's pork ribs are meaty, tender, cooked slowly in a hickory-wood pit. They are served wet (glazed with the house's own Mojo Mild barbecue sauce) or dry (sprinkled with a top secret blend of spices). Although the menu doesn't mention it, you can order your ribs half wet and half dry, which is what we did in the interest of research. The dry ribs have a spicy kick, and the seasoning reminded us of Old Bay. The wet ribs were milder but still had a wonderful hickory flavor. It's a tough call between the two, but our table voted for wet ribs as the winner. The ribs are available in regular size ($9.95), large ($11.95) or a slab for two ($16.95) and come with beans (hot and slightly spicy), cole slaw (vinegary and light on the dressing) and hot, soft bread. You can also order a slab without the trimmings for $14.95.
Though salad is not typical fare for a rib joint, we just had to try the Red, Hot & Blue smokehouse salad ($6.45), a combination of smoked turkey, beef brisket, jalapeno pepper cheese, tomato slices, cucumber and fresh corn relish served on lettuce. We ordered the dressing on the side--a smart move, since the flavors from the salad were so wonderful by themselves, salad dressing wasn't necessary. The salad was huge and heavy on the beef, turkey and vegetables, not lettuce. Luckily I ordered an extra side of the corn relish--corn, green and red peppers, red onion and cilantro ($1.25)--since everyone at the table enjoyed it.
The pulled pig platter ($6.95) is a house specialty. The pork, a huge serving, is pulled in large tender chunks and covered with the Mojo Mild barbecue sauce. It's also served with baked beans and cole slaw, but we substituted potato salad (red potatoes with the skin), which we decided tied with the corn relish for our favorite side dish.
My daughter loved the grilled chicken breast sandwich ($5.95), with lettuce and tomato on a fresh, soft roll. It's served with a honey mustard and potato salad.
Although we were incredibly full from the huge portions (and even had a doggie bag working), we had to try one dessert. Our choice was the Oreo Brownie Sundae and I recommend you get forks for everyone at your table.
Red, Hot & Blue is a fantastic rib joint, but it's also so much more. With great cooking, huge portions, very reasonable prices and friendly service, it's a great place to visit with friends and definitely somewhere to bring the kids.
Red, Hot & Blue, 677 Main St., Laurel, Md.; call 301-953-1943. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday, noon-11 p.m.; Sunday, noon-9 p.m.
CAPTION: The Delta Double Platter with dry ribs at Red, Hot & Blue in Laurel.