99 in Pittsfield

Not Exactly a Rib Joint

By: - Sep 28, 2011

99 99 99 99 99

In our pursuit of Barbecue in the Berkshires we took a hike from off the beaten track to the 99 which is a mainstream chain that features comfort food in a casual setting.

Often in the evening it is busy with a lobby full of hungry diners looking to knock down a few at affordable prices. It fits that niche between staying at home and dining out. Kind of a step up from ordering pizza to be delivered or takeout Chinese.

On the strong recommendation of Pancho we fell by for lunch and a chance to sample the barbecue. It is a favorite hangout for Pancho and Sweetiepie.

It was nice to be seated instantly. And our waitperson was perky, fun and fast.

Our tall iced teas were delivered instantly and the food seemed to fly out of the kitchen.

The menu is diverse and enticing.

But we were on a mission.

Pancho strongly recommended the full rack of St. Louis style ribs which he had previously enjoyed.

For tasting variety I looked around. It would have been interesting to sample the turkey tips but Pancho, after a bit of discussion, vetoed that.

We opted for a barbecue sampler as the second option. It included four St. Louis ribs, grilled chicken, and steak tips. Both the latter with barbecue sauce.

For sides we both chose cole slaw. Cisco went with the rice pilaf while Pancho always, but always, goes with garlic mashed potato. The barbecue entrees come with a biscuit.

The sauce is essential for the Pit Bulls and the server was fine with providing extras as we requested.

Digging into the food we became quiet and meditative.

We agreed that the full rack was perfectly cooked. Tender flavorful meat, as they say, falling off the bone. There was a nice, slightly burnt, caramelized finish. The portion of the full rack was generous and Pancho ended up with a doggy bag. There isn’t a luncheon portion on the menu so the dinner at $15.99 proved to be more than enough.

For both of us the chicken was undistinguished. It just appeared to be grilled chicken with generic barbecue sauce. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Steak tips are a specialty at 99 and they did not disappoint. Their tips come with a variety of marinades and sauces. Always a sure thing.

The biscuit proved to be dry and less than flaky. It adds little or nothing to the platters.

As we said Pancho likes the garlic mashed. The rice pilaf was good but not great. The cole slaw was, well, just like every other cole slaw. In a true rib joint the sides are key where here they were so so. No collard greens, mac and cheese, or candied sweets as authentic barbecue options.

Given the superb quality of the well prepared rack of ribs the sauce was a major letdown. It tasted very corporate with a one size fits all lack of character or personality.

Bottom line. Yes, by all means order the ribs. Smuggle in your own sauce. And hit the margaritas. It was lunch and we don’t imbibe before sundown so there was nothing to dull the senses.

Of course the ambiance was laid back and unrushed.

Next week we will leave the barbecue trail for another detour. To check out a quite authentic Colombian restaurant in Pittsfield. No ribs but lots of other ethnic delicacies to check out.

Please send us your favorite hangouts. We would love to fall by and give your recommendations the Pit Bulls treatment.