Famous Dave's BBQ of Minnetonka, Minnesota, sold plenty of ribs at this weekend's 20th-annual Best in the West Rib Cook-Off at the Nugget Casino Hotel in Sparks, Nev., as seen here by the stacks of seasoned racks about to go into the team's cooker, but for the first time in three years the championship trophy went to someone else.
That would be Bone Daddy's BBQ of Midland, Michigan, which hadn't won the 24-team showdown since 1999, though it placed fifth in 2006 and third in 2003. "I can't believe it. I'm shaking," said Bill "Bone Daddy" Wall, who with his wife Kim has been competing at the Sparks cook-off since 1991. "I've never been more tired in all my years of doing this. There's not another event like this, this big, in the country. I have to give all the credit to my crew. I'm gonna go buy them all a cocktail."
The judging was done blind Sunday, with the results announced Monday afternoon as the 2008 event neared the end of its run. As it happened, Bone Daddy's dark, sweet and juicy ribs racked up the most points on my scoresheet.
This year's cook-off, spread over six days, drew an estimated 500,000 rib lovers, said Michael Traum, publicity director for the sponsoring Nugget.
In other events, two-time champion Joey Chestnut defended his world rib-eating title by consuming 9.8 pounds of rib meat in 12 minutes. Also, in the first-ever "Running of the Pigs," a porker named Mabel topped a field of 20 pigs in a 100-yard dash, while in the same sprint the pig named McCain edged the pig named Obama "by a snout," said Traum.
First-place prize money for Bone Daddy's was $7,500. In the sauce competition, The BBQ Company of Phoenix, Arizona, took first place with a blend notable for its unusual complexity and distinctive note of what seemed to be coffee.
Famous Dave's, meanwhile, placed fourth, worth $1,000 in prize money, but owner Mike Bowar wasn't complaining, saying, "We've never seen more people at our stand."