This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

RIBS ON THE RUN has everything working against it. It's the only West Coast outpost of a barbecue chain in New York, a city with no real 'cue tradition. It's in Laguna Hills, a city best known for not being Laguna Beach or Laguna Niguel. The service here is slow, many of the workers speak English as a second language, and the interior design is mostly a couple autographed pictures of baseball players and a map of the Big Apple with circles that look uncomfortably like a nuclear fall-out zone diagram. And while I like the logo—a smiling rib dripping with sauce, a bone protruding from his (her?) head—little kids will surely tremble at its sight.

None of this really matters—you're here for meat. And Ribs on the Run heaps it on. Their ribs aren't prepared in any discernible style—instead, they merely fill your gut, blacken your fingertips, enchant your palate. The smallest order is for four; the largest feeds your Anaheim Angels, whom sent a thank-you note to Ribs on the Run that's prominently displayed on a bulletin board. There is little else in terms of barbecue choices—chicken, pulled pork and tri-tip served in plates or stuffed in a sandwich—but the owners compensate for this oversight with sides ranging from sweet potato fries and fried zucchini to warm bowls of cheese-heavy chili. Ribs on the Run is also one of the few Orange County locations for authentic Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs—as delicious as advertised, although to prepare them as a Chicago-style hot dog as they do here is delicious heresy.

Ribs on the Run introduces new choices from time to time, and the latest is the beef brisket sandwich. It's smaller than its six-dollar price warrants, and I'm still not sure what's the difference between a potato bun (on which the beef brisket sits) and a regular ol' roll. But those minor quibbles disappear with each bite. The brisket is delicate, as soft as rice, and smothered in a sauce that 'cue purists will probably deride as too sweet, but which the rest of us will gladly lick off our fingers. This sandwich is deceptive: though small, it'll turn you logy for the rest of the afternoon—and just try to rub off the stains on your lips and fingers without steel wool.


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24881 Alicia Parkway
Mission Viejo, CA 92653


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