Restaurant Review: Ray Ray’s (Westerville)
Ray Ray’s has a drive thru in Westerville. Best known as a mobile food operation, it opened up the permanent north-end outlet in 2017. Having stood dutifully in line under the hot sun, in rain and biting winter winds, at its food truck, waiting for an order of Ray Ray’s ribs from the comforts of a car is novel and frighteningly enjoyable. The new stop now goes into the book of suburban benefits, right along with thriving school systems and back yards.
The menu has the normal stuff. You can get a rack, and they are expertly prepared at smokers you can see stationed outside the drive-thru box. Priced at $20 for a full slab, the regular ribs are a little cheaper than baby back, and are consistently wonderful. There are a variety of sauces to pair with the ribs: sweet barbecue, habanero. While the sauces are agreeable enough, personal preference leans towards the unadulterated smoky flavor of the soft meaty ribs. The smoking process can dry out meat, but Ray’s Ray’s seems to always strike the impossible balance that preserves both flavor and texture. It’s worth appreciation in its purest form.
Everyone knows about Ray Ray’s ribs, though. Heck, they’ve been covered by the likes of Esquire and USA Today. What you might not know about is the House Big Mac. Okay, not exactly a Big Mac: it’s called the Mangalitsa Brat Burger ($9). It’s based on “whole hog” sausage made from a breed of pig called Mangalitsa. The whole hog moniker gives ample reason for pause, but it turns out that, according to the USDA, “whole hog” does not include parts that are generally regarded as inedible. Good enough.
According to the menu, the brat burger comes with napa cabbage, onions and a honey mustard sauce. Nothing about that description 1) Tells you how huge the burger will be or 2) Even vaguely implies Big Mac. But, one bite suggests otherwise.
Of course, it’s not an ordinary Big Mac. It’s like it’s a Mac on steroids, huge and full of sausage. There are bonus pickle slices in the mix, and the honey mustard sauce hits the same notes the famed McD’s special sauce once did. Swear. Every childhood memory, before you got woke and abstained from evil corporate fare, comes flooding back in the first bite.
Also, while revisiting the Big Mac in the new millenia can be disappointing (the skinny beef is weird, the sandwich is small and not nicely put together), Ray Ray’s version is a bona fide destination dish.
Also tried was the Jerk Chicken ($7) sandwich. The straight jerk chicken has long been some of the best in town. That said, it wasn’t fabulous in the sandwich. The sandwich combo involves a mix of red cabbage and red onion, but that mix is super heavy on the onions. There were enough onions in the sandwich to feed several starving children in famine-struck countries. Stick with straight jerk chicken.
Side wise, they’re bargains (medium sizes for $3). Corn Pudding or collard greens were the best items tried. The macaroni and cheese is a little dry, nothing special, and the beans have an intense barbecue sauce flavor that drowns out everything else about them. But you won’t have room for that stuff after the burger and ribs.
You can find it all at 5755 Maxtown Rd.
For more information, visit rayrayshogpit.com.