When passing over a heaping plate of barbecue goodness to customers, The Rib Cage manager Victor Florell jokingly tells them they might need a nap after eating so much. Though its menu might only fit in one hand, The Rib Cage’s barbecue offerings are mighty on taste and portions.
Its biggest seller, the giant shredded pork sandwich, comes with a fork to wrangle all the meat that spills out from underneath its bun. All three of its sandwiches—pork, beef, chicken filet—are garnished with the word “giant” on the menu. “Many times they’ll open (the box containing the pork sandwich), and you’ll hear the exclamation,” Florell says. “But the main thing is the taste. It’s a small menu, but I want everything on there to be the best of its kind.”
For barbecue lovers, this mobile roadside stand, huddled unassumingly on the edge of a gas station parking lot on County Road 81 just east of Brockton Lane North in Osseo, is a must-stop destination. Between May and the last week of September, The Rib Cage trailer bustles, thanks to word-of-mouth from its loyal customers, devoted to the mouth-watering barbecue style that Florell’s father, Vance, conjured up in 1991. “They almost take it upon themselves to promote us,” says Florell, who says the barbecue joint traveled around until settling at its present location in 2006.
The Rib Cage’s contrast between sweet and salty is created by smoking the ribs and other meats using a mix of cherry and apple woods. (Pork spareribs take center stage and are available in full, half and quarter rack. Other menu items include chicken and bratwurst, along with coleslaw and beans for the sides.) “Cherry wood is more of a sweet smoke than the heartier, earthy mesquites or hickory,” says Florell, who arrives at 4 a.m. to prepare the food on smokers just outside a nearby truck converted into a commercial kitchen.
The Rib Cage serves its food without barbecue sauce. “The goal is for all our meats to taste great without sauce, but if people like it, the sauce is available,” Florell says. You can also bring home Vance’s own barbecue sauce—hot or mild—for $4 a bottle. “Our hot sauce, we kind of get made fun of because it’s not overwhelming,” he says. “It’s got a little bit more kick for Minnesota. It’s Minnesota hot.”
Florell sees his father as a man ahead of his time, considering how trendy food trucks have become. “He found enough success early on to give him the confidence to keep on developing his craft,” he says. The idea for The Rib Cage began as a way for Vance to drum up business for his Monticello gas station. His ribs were such a hit that he ditched the gas station to concentrate on the grill.
In the beginning, Florell says his father wanted his barbecue joint to be a quick, enjoyable meal for working guys, who needed to get back to the job site. Vance, who now lives in Arizona, still owns The Rib Cage, but Victor took over running it about seven years ago. His sister, Pam Muldoon, helps out. “That has evolved,” says Florell, who lives in Buffalo with his wife and three children. “Our customers are now from all walks of life. We have guys covered in grease come up for lunch, and we have CEOs of large companies come here, too.”
Any ideas Florell has for future growth for The Rib Cage will include a presence at the Osseo corner. He says it feels like home. One customer described the setup to Florell as a real slice of Americana. “I’ll take that any day,” he says. “That sense of uniqueness, that sense of working hard and putting yourself out there and have it pay off the way it does.”
In Their Words
Customers love The Rib Cage—just take some of their Facebook words for it.
“Best smoked meat around. And delicious BBQ sauce! Been going for over 20 years.”—KW
“They catered our wedding … THAT’S HOW GOOD THEY ARE!”—BD
“The best ribs I ever had. This is a MN treasure!!!”—JW
“The ribs here are nothing short of AMAZING. Convenient location just off 81. Prices are pretty decent, too. We’ve tried the ribs, pulled pork, slaw and beans. It’s all delicious. Their BBQ sauce is also worth taking with you, and you can even get it in bottles to keep over the winter when they are not open. Love stopping here on the way home to pick up an easy dinner for the family!”—JS
“We drive from Bloomington to have these ribs, pulled pork sandwiches and grilled chicken! Been going there for over five years.”—KGR
“The pork sandwich is a mountain of delicious meat so juicy and flavorful you won’t need anything else. The ribs are delicious as well, and their sauces are both delicious.”—MK
“We have been going to ‘The Rib Man,’ as we call him, for many, many years, and I have yet to find any ribs or sauce that compare!”—MM
“The food is absolutely amazing along with very friendly service. Great place to get away and sit outside and relax a little.”—RP
“Sometimes, the road less traveled leads to new adventures, and permanent memories! It was my first time stopping by The Rib Cage today, and certainly won’t be my last! The ribs and chicken are divine, the slaw was fresh, and the beans are a must!! Such friendly folks, too! Looking forward to Round 2!”—MLD
“I have had these ribs for at least 25 years, and I cannot find a better tasting rib in Minnesota.”—KS
“Some of the best damn ribs I ever had.”—AG
The Rib Cage
19000 County Road 81, Osseo
Open 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Mondays, and 10:30 a.m.–7 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays the first week of May through the end of September. (It’s closed weekends and holidays.)
It also does catering, selling pork and beef sandwich meat by the pound. For more information, call 612.245.3516, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.