Ricky D’s Rib Shack is located in an out-of-the-way corner of New Haven’s Science Park. It doesn’t have the statewide recognition of perennial favorites like Hoodoo Brown BBQ or Bear’s Smokehouse, but for barbecue enthusiasts, it is worthy of a pilgrimage. Most menu items come drenched in the restaurant’s signature Kansa-Lina barbecue sauce. This elevates the ribs and other products from good to gotta-have.
Kansa-Lina sauce is the brainchild of owner Ricky Evans. It is a combination of the sweet and savory barbecue favored in Kansas City with the vinegar-forward barbecue flavors of the Carolinas. “The sauce is ketchup based,” he says. “We add our little seasonings and spices in there, and we put a little apple vinegar in there to give it that nice little tangy combination.”
That mixture of sweet and vinegar is a winning one. During our visit, the sauce is the perfect accompaniment to a half-slab of ribs ($14), a beef brisket sandwich ($9) and smoked turkey sandwich ($8). The ribs are a standout. Their soft, flavorful meat dripping with barbecue sauce is the stuff from which cravings are born. Both sandwiches are also strong. The only side we try, the mac and cheese ($3) is merely average, but that is more than forgiven given the quality of the other offerings.
Evans started his business as a New Haven food truck 5½ years back. A native of Cleveland, he lived in Memphis, Virginia and New York before moving to New Haven, where his wife is from.
He grew up with backyard cookouts, which he says were filled with “family and friends, good vibes, good energy, good food.” He wanted to bring that cookout cuisine and philosophy to his food truck. He expanded to a brick-and-mortar in New Haven in 2016.
Evans’ signature barbecue sauce is sold at some local stores and can be ordered online. He also hopes to eventually offer a CBD-infused version, as well as a THC-infused one. Though CBD, a chemical compound in cannabis and hemp that does not produce a high like THC, is currently legal in Connecticut, there are major restrictions on how it can be made and sold. THC is illegal except for medical purposes, and qualifying conditions do not yet include a craving for barbecue.
Evans is hoping Connecticut law becomes more cannabis friendly this year, which would permit him to produce both new versions of his barbecue sauce. In the meantime, the only high you get from the sauce is a natural one from eating great barbecue. | Erik Ofgang |
Ricky D’s Rib Shack
302 Winchester Ave., New Haven
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.