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Local BBQ restaurant a mainstay at rib cook-off
by Joshua H. Silavent
Aug 31, 2011 | 3166 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Tribune/John Byrne - Kayce Rathmann, wife of B.J.’s Nevada Barbecue Co. owner Jay Rathmann, has been helping her husband make ribs for 16 years.
SPARKS — Of the 24 cookers at this year’s Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off, only one is a hometown favorite.

B.J.’s Nevada Barbecue Co. has called Sparks home for more than 20 years. The family-owned business currently occupies a brick-and-mortar store on North McCarran Boulevard and recently opened B.J.’s Hog Wild Café on Victorian Avenue.

B.J.’s has participated in what many consider to be the world’s largest rib and barbecue celebration almost since the event’s inception 23 years ago, winning many awards for best sauce and ribs during that time.

“It’s an event of consumption,” said owner and manager Jay Rathmann, adding that he has about 7,000 pounds of ribs ready to serve this weekend.

Rathmann said he began setting up shop on Monday along Victorian Avenue near the west end of John Ascuaga’s Nugget. He began cooking ribs Tuesday night and by Wednesday morning, with the deep fryers, grill and smoker going, hungry patrons were already devouring B.J.’s famous ribs, pulled pork sandwiches and “kick ass fries.”

Those kick ass fries are “the best worst thing we ever did,” Rathmann joked.

The fries are topped with shredded cheddar cheese, shredded pork and B.J.’s original barbecue sauce.

The concoction is their No. 1 seller, Rathmann said, and one look at the dish tells why. It draws stares.

“Look at the rubberneckers,” Rathmann said as one patron walked away with the fries in hand. Several passersby literally stopped dead in their tracks to gaze upon the dish, which is like a meal in itself.

Rathmann described B.J.’s as a Louisiana-style barbecue restaurant. But with a variety of original sauces, such as cherry chipotle, a dry rub, signature ribs and complementary sides, Rathmann said, “We’re kind of the melting pot” of the barbecue community.

Business has picked up at the rib cook-off in recent years despite the troubled economy, Rathmann said, with a major spike in sales in 2010.

When asked why the rib cook-off was such a popular event, Rathmann asked, “Have you ever known anybody that doesn’t like barbecue?”

But home court doesn’t necessarily bring an advantage.

Rathmann said some locals skip over B.J.’s because they know they can get it anytime they desire.

“That’s the hard part for us,” Rathmann said.

Nevertheless, the rib cook-off is the highlight of the year for B.J.’s.

“This is our gig,” Rathmann said.

B.J.’s Nevada Barbecue Co. is offering rib samples and slabs ($6 and $23, respectively), pulled pork sandwiches ($7), brisket ($8) and kick ass fries ($9), plus sides such as coleslaw, potato salad and chicken salad. Sauces and a dry rub also are for sale.
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