So I am not trying to pick on vegetarians but every day I walked by the restaurant I wondered what in the hell is a place that specializes in ribs doing catering to vegetarians. Within walking distance are a variety of excellent veggie options including the hyped-up Vita Café, where if you want to know what Denny’s might be like run by and for vegetarians go there, gravy never had it so gunky and green. This rib place though, is funky, and meaty, and screams Paleo though I suspected the sides would be your standard, biscuit, corn, coleslaw. I was not disappointed, even the white napkins were up to par. Cannon’s Rib Express is situated between a Walgreen’s and a New Season’s grocery experience (shop and cruise). It feels like someone pulled up a beat-up ford to the parking lot, opened a cooler, and rolled out the barbeque and over time someone dropped off picnic tables, table cloths, and old signage boards because the car broke down and couldn’t be bothered to move. I am seeing this place in winter, and rumor has it, in the summer it is a hangout for local music and good parking lot eating. Unfortunately for this restaurant it is still winter and its name begins with C so of course it is a target. It is unusual and different and this time I had company. What I didn’t know was one of them was a ribs aficionado.
I knew something was up, when Jacob asked which way I preferred my rib’s- Louisiana or Texas style. I didn’t know states could be famous for how they cooked their ribs. After learning that Louisiana is sweet and Texas is spicy I’d say I prefer the spicy, though I am going to go that extra bit and I say I prefer them dry like my mom cook’s them. I hate sauce it’s messy, sweet, and typically full of brown sugar and ketchup. Barbeque sauce is right on par with sweet potatoes cooked in brown sugar and butter, sappy, syrupy, porn. Get a recipe book, folks or at least make your own ketchup. Jacob is originally from a small town in Indiana and moved to Portland about five years ago or so. Every time I hang with the unassuming “dude” that he is, I learn something, a fun fact one might say. He’s better than any app I could download.
That evening there were four of us on the excursion- Wenzl, Jacob, Quinn, and me. It was a family affair. All of us at one point in time had been intrigued by this oddly placed shack-alike restaurant. Plus, given its location down the street from Wenzl’s, it could be the ideal, don’t want to cook, let’s get ribs joint.
Tongue-tied and impertinent at the counter I decided not to ask about the sauce and whether it was gluten-free as I had already asked why the ribs were advertised as Portland style. I was expecting some sort of we farmed this ourselves, recipe, twist on bacon, thing- but no, it was their own recipe for ribs, which I guess makes it Portland style. Everything here is home made. Portland belongs in Alaska, just north of Fairbanks, out there enough to be a destination, but out there enough to be- out there. He did tell me the restaurant had been around for 26 years, which explains the location and the sign. I wanted to tell him, vegetarians aren’t the ones to be worried about, it’s people like me, those who ask about the sauce… Maybe someone should drop him a bag of arrowroot powder or xantham gum and he can change the sign to gluten free fare. I shut my mouth and ordered the half rack of baby back ribs taking his advice on the special price.
The wait was short. It definitely was express. By the time I finished with my sugar free ice cream run I had to run to catch up with the crowd heading back to the house. Plates of piles of meat were handed out. It was quiet for about a few minutes. I watched Jacob eat his ribs. I could tell something was up. He looked up after every bite and slowly chewed on them while the rest of us went through them like a stale bag of Cheetos after a night out drinking. He hesitated to say what was on his mind. He knows I’ll write about it. But I didn’t have to ask. The ribs were ribs: a little odd, tougher than they should be, and lacking a special spice or something of that nature. The sauce was sloppy, and until they make designer bibs, this boy ain’t wearing one, so for me that was a factor. Yet the meat could be sucked off the bones and I didn’t feel heavy afterwards. The conversation made up for the ribs. I learned that Jacob had been searching for the perfect Rib since he had arrived, and other restaurants were mentioned that were good but not quite there. So what does that say about Portland style? All I know is that I was impressed with how long Canon’s had been in business- 26 years, they had seen Alberta go from a killing street to an art’s district and survived. We joked that maybe the sauce was different in the summer. We joked between wiping our lips with the plethora of napkins they provided, drinking the wine, and exchanging good rib stories. Oh and the vegetarian fare- you guessed it- a bowl of veggies. Yep.