Battle of the Pig: The Best BBQ in the Midwest

Oh, that little piggy is so delicious.

For Northeast Ohioans, the official kickoff to summer is the Marc’s Great American Rib Cook-Off & Music Festival. This year’s finger-licking porkfest is Friday, May 27th through Monday, May 30th at its new location– Jacobs Pavilion and Nautica Entertainment Complex on the West Bank of the Flats. It’s the 20th anniversary celebration, so expect extra everything– from music, to food, to fun.

Did I mention food?

The rib-making businesss is a serious thing. Some even call it a science. And if you win with your ribs, you’ve got braggin’ rights.

Two Stark County Rib-esseurs will fight for the crown of Best in the Midwest: Pigfoot BBQ Co. in Salem and Jack on The Bone in Massillon. Both are award-winners already. In fact, these two aren’t a pair of rank amateurs. Dave Amstutz, the man behind Jack on the Bone, has raked-in rib honors since 1992. That includes honors from all over the country and even Canda. Cool, eh?

Pigfoot BBQ has been kickin’ the competition in the pork butt since 1989, winning 300 national awards. Jerry Gibson is the owner and rib magician.

Do these guys throw ribs at each other? Get in the ring and sumo-wrestle it out? It’s all fun, until it’s judging time.

“It is a competition. We’re all friends until judging day,” said Gibson. “On that day, we don’t want to see our competitors until the judging ribs have been turned in. We don’t want to be spied on to see how we do things. But we are always competiting with our fellow ribbers for the public business.”

So true. Winning competitions is great for future business, so it’s kind of a big deal. Here’s more from Gibson, including tips on making awesome ribs.

1. Why are your ribs the “Best in the Midwest?”
“It’s all in the way they’re prepared. We are the only ones who do not smoke our ribs and we believe them to be meatier, more tender and cooked with our seasoning and finished with our award-winning sauce.”

2. What’s the one key to good rib makin’?
“Starting with a good quality raw rib, and taking your time.”

3. After ribs, what’s the next best meat to BBQ?
“A pork butt.”

4. If you could be barbequed, which meat would be you be: ribs, chicken, or brisket?
“A rib, of course!”

5. Smack talk: Why will you beat Jack on the Bone?
“Because we use our own products, not someone else’s (Jack Daniels.) Also, we’re the ones they come to for advice at the shows.”

Awww, yeah! It’s “on like Donkey Kong.”

Dave Amstutz of Jack and the Bone could not be reached for comment. Shakin’ in his sauce stained shirt? Doing a thousand push ups in preparation for the battle? Not sure. By I am sure this will be one tasty battle.

Bring the pig.

Admission to the Marc’s Great American Rib Cook-Off & Music Festival is FREE until 3 pm daily. Kids 12 and under are FREE every day, all hours.