- Griffin Swartzell
- Citrus-cured salmon works as a cooling summer appetizer.
When we enter Rib & Chop House, all seems crisp and hip, with wooden structures and clean, white tile suggesting we’re about to get a meal from a kitchen that prizes fresh, local-as-possible ingredients and uses them well. However, something’s amiss, and it’s my culinary cohort who spots the first tell: several huge dollops of whipped cream on a brownie on its way out of the kitchen into the spacious dining area. He believes that going heavy on the sweet white stuff indicates chain kitchen thinking, but to me, extra sugar on dessert doesn’t look like a red flag.
Rib & Chop House, a regional chain, operates nine locations. Burke and Melissa Moran, who own Bozeman-based Finally Restaurant Group, opened the first one in 2001. Through Finally, they own a total of 13 restaurants under the brands TJ Ribs, Rio Sabinas and Accomplice Beer Company. The Springs’ Rib & Chop House, which opened in late April 2019, represents their first push into Colorado; they operate predominantly in Montana and Wyoming, with Utah and Louisiana deviations.
We sit at the bar on a busy night before 30 taps offering serious craft beer treats — we go hard with snifters of an ever-excellent Myrcenary Double IPA from Odell Brewing Company and a decadent Breakfast Stout, a double chocolate coffee oatmeal stout from Michigan’s Founders Brewing Co. Good beer, good start. But the dissonance continues. The bar top’s clean light stone arc, well lit, feels hip and modern, but eight HD televisions showing football games and MMA fights push far into sports-bar territory. Servers wear T-shirts that read “The Springs” on the front and “CO” on the back. Water comes in plastic cups — nice ones that resemble glass pints, admittedly, but still, plastic at a steakhouse feels off. Paintings around the restaurant depict not Montana but Colorado Springs, as if the owners were compelled to tell the city its own story instead of theirs.
We start with citrus-cured salmon, a seasonal cold appetizer. Salmon cured in orange, lemon and lime peels sits atop a salty salmon pâté made from the same salmon poached in wine, mixed with citrus zest, sour cream, olive oil and butter, all on a chewy crostini. The salmon pâté bears notable citrus peel brightness and bitterness, and though the crostini wants for a more thorough toasting, it’s a pleasant summer bite.
We also split a 1-pound “Fulton Street” rack of ribs, served with two sides: We choose fascinating-in-theory carrot soufflé and garlic mushrooms. The latter come waterlogged, garlicky enough, but needing a much drier cooking heat. As for the former, the dish of carrot mash bears no resemblance to a soufflé in structure or to carrots in flavor. Rather, we recall sweetened Cream of Wheat cereal in taste and texture, with faint maple notes in a dish otherwise devoid of personality.
The ribs themselves arrive pretty damn tender, oven-cooked and finished on the grill, but they have a pitifully limp excuse for bark. House-made mild barbecue sauce proves nice enough brushed over them, and we’re far from mad about the pepper heat in the hot barbecue sauce we use as a dip. But house garlic Sriracha sauce tastes of cloying sweet chile sauce — think Mae Ploy — with a little Sriracha mixed in, a heavy-handed thing we’d avoid. Interrogating what’s before our eyes, we learn that the meats are sourced from nowhere in particular. So however the chain spot presents itself, know this: Beneath the skin, there’s no meat, only sugar.