The Charred Rib restaurant has been selected as a primary food vendor and caterer for the Ripken Youth Academy and Ripken Stadium—home of the Aberdeen Ironbirds. Stadium owners and Orioles all-stars Cal and Billy Ripken, recently announced that they would be unveiling a variety of outside vendor food items at the ballpark.
“To be honest, I thought it was a practical joke,” Michael Sabracos, The Charred Ribs' managing partner, said.
The Timonium sports bar was selected out of a pool of three competitors after a series of blind taste tests.
"They got samples from two other competitors of ours and then they reached out to us,” Sabracos said. “We did [another] tasting for them and they were blown away and were very happy with it.”
The Charred Rib will sell ribs, barbecue, baked barbecue chicken, its signature onion loaf, pit beef, pit turkey, macaroni and cheese and “the famous” chocolate bread pudding with a white chocolate brandy sauce, in addition to being named the ballpark's club level caterer.
“When we first built the stadium, there were a lot of challenges to get the stadium built. One of those solutions was to take an outside vendor,” Cal Ripken said. “First it was Finish Line, and it turned out to be Levy. They did a really nice job. But the more you get into the minor league business, the more you want to control every aspect of it. So we started looking at the possibility a couple years ago, when our contract came up, to do this ourselves.”
Bill added: “We were building a stadium when we didn’t even have a team. The idea to take all [the food operations] on, it was probably unrealistic.”
Now, they’re ready for the task.
“When you think about it, stadium food is not what stadium food used to be years ago,” Cal Ripken told Patch. “When we grew up, you had popcorn, you had peanuts, hamburgers and hotdogs. In all venues, now, they’ve gotten a little more creative. We wanted to spread our wings a little bit and be creative in that fashion, and be responsive to the desires of the customer.”
With the number of large groups that visit Aberdeen to take part in camps, clinics and tournaments at the Ripken Youth Complex, providing a group dining option on-site was a sound investment in the Ripkens’ eyes.
“A travel team comes with a 40- or 50-person group, so they like to sit together, relax and have that sort of experience,” Cal Ripken said. “So by bringing it in-house, we can consider other opportunities, or even have crab option outside of game days.”
With IronBirds game times falling around 7 p.m. on weeknights, Ripken Stadium is host to not just baseball games, but family meals.
“It’s an integral part of the experience. In the rush of a busy life, if you’re trying to get to the game and you don’t get dinner, well you can get dinner here,” Cal Ripken said. “You want to provide a good variety and good options to do that each and every game.”
As The Charred rib prepares for its Ripken Stadium concession stand, the highly reviewed rib joint has undertaken an equally challenging task—a large scale renovation and revised menu.
“My hope is to draw more people and more families," Sabracos, who took over the decades old rib house in September, said. "I live not too far from here and I loved the branding opportunity that The Charred Rib name had. But I knew it was the first place I thought of going out to eat with my kids and I wanted to make that happen. That’s been in our goal.”
When customers first walk into The Charred Rib, the most noticeable change is the waiting area. Authentic stadium and arena seating from the Orioles' Camden Yards to the Baltimore Ravens M&T Bank Stadium fill out the Rib's main lobby.
And for hockey and basketball fans, Sabracos added seating from the Washington Capitals and Wizards.
On the food front, a new menu featuring more salad and family-friendly options will be released in the next four to six weeks, according to Sabracos.
“We wanted to pick out what was really working here and took out what wasn’t,” he said.
Sabracos was most excited about the new Charred Rib wedge salad, which—obviously enough—includes a dressed wedge of iceberg lettuce, accompanied by the restaurant's famous ribs.
“It was always a sports bar. We’ve had a Ravens Roost here for years. One of every two dishes that we sell here is ribs. So, for me, the feeling of being able to sit down and eating ribs in a sports bar environment—that’s what I’m trying to accomplish, while still having that warm and cozy feeling.”
Tell Us: What do you think of The Charred Rib's inclusion in the Ripkens' menu? What is your favorite dish at The Charred Rib? Start the convo in the comments section below.