The options can be overwhelming at modern barbecue joints. Which of the half-dozen meats, eight sides, or four desserts—not to mention the specials—do you choose? The team at Goldee’s Barbecue, in Fort Worth, decided to ease that burden when it opened Ribbee’s in a repurposed Sonic this month. As the name suggests, Ribbee’s serves only ribs, and they all come in the same $20 meal box with fries, slaw, and a roll. The only catch is you’ll have to get out of your car despite the familiar drive-in setting.

Jonny White, Jalen Heard, and Lane Milne are all co-owners of Ribbee’s, as they are at Goldee’s, but this has been White’s baby. Barbecue wasn’t cheap in early 2020 when they first opened Goldee’s (currently our number one barbecue joint in the state), he noted, and it’s only gotten more expensive. “I really wanted to do a cheaper option for people to get barbecue,” White said. He found an inexpensive lease much closer to downtown Fort Worth. A previous barbecue tenant had renovated the interior to add a dining room and upgraded the kitchen, so the place was nearly move-in ready. The team just needed to design a simple menu concept centered on ribs.

While Goldee’s is known for its long lines, there were just ten people ahead of me and my daughter when we arrived to Ribbee’s at 10:55 a.m. on a Saturday. There’s a massive M&M rotisserie in the back that can smoke dozens of racks of ribs at a time (the restaurant is going through about ninety per day currently), so the full menu is available until 9 p.m.

Every order of ribs is served in a paper-lined styrofoam box. For $20 you get a canned drink and a full meal with four or five baby back ribs, depending on the size, or two meaty beef back ribs from HeartBrand. A $10 kid’s meal comes with two pork ribs, fries, and a roll.

Ribbee’s operates out of a repurposed Sonic Drive-In. Photograph by Daniel Vaughn
Meal boxes at Ribbee’s come with either pork or beef ribs, slaw, a roll, and fries. Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

The beef is seasoned with just salt and pepper. The pork ribs I tried were seasoned with table salt before smoking, but White said he prefers the deep red color of ribs dusted with the Goldee’s signature seasoned salt, so that will be the seasoning going forward. The ribs are served atop a pile of sweet and salty crinkle-cut fries. A cup of crunchy, sweet slaw (which is easy to scoop up thanks to the diced cabbage) is included along with a freshly baked roll. If you love the white bread at Goldee’s, know that it uses the same dough to make these rolls, which are brushed with honey butter when they come out of the oven.

Several sauces are available, including the Goldee’s original that’s a mix of ketchup and mustard with a good dose of honey. The sweet and spicy version includes a spicy dry rub on the ribs before the sauce goes on. My favorite was the hot honey, which adds chili powder, paprika, cayenne, red pepper flakes, and more honey to the original Goldee’s sauce. You can of course order the ribs with no sauce as well, and the beef ribs come with sauce only if you order it on the side.

Those beef back ribs were something special. It’s hard to find back ribs, which are cut from the ribeye, with a good amount of meat left on the bone. It also takes a good long while in the smoker to get them tender, but Ribbee’s does them well. After one bite, my daughter said she preferred the pork ribs, so I ate both the beef ribs and four of the pork. I haven’t eaten that many ribs in one sitting in quite a while, and that’s partly because of the four or five smoked meats I normally have in front of me. It was nice to think just about the next rib, rather than saving room to evaluate every item of a huge menu. And when it came to dessert, the only choice was whether you wanted root beer poured over vanilla soft serve or not.

I asked White if the partners considered expanding Goldee’s before pursuing Ribbee’s. “We know we can’t ever open another Goldee’s,” he said. It’s a wildly successful barbecue joint, but it would be hard to replicate. They considered a preorder option at Goldee’s and thought about offering catering but decided they didn’t need to push that old building or their staff beyond their limits. That’s also why they’ve stuck with being open just four days a week at Goldee’s and now at Ribbee’s. White said it allows them to hire a full staff where nearly everyone can work four ten-hour days and get the other three days off. That’s unusual for a barbecue joint.

As for other new concepts in the works, White said there are none currently, but added, “I think in the future Lane and Jalen will have their own spin-off restaurants.” He mentioned a sausage-centric restaurant as an option or even a pizza joint, but said those are all further down the road. For now, they’re going to see if they can get Fort Worth hooked on baby back ribs.

923 E. Seminary Drive, Fort Worth
Hours: Thursday–Sunday 11–9
Pitmaster: Jonny White
Method: Oak in a wood-fired rotisserie
Year opened: 2024