Most restaurateurs would love to be able to say they sold out of food daily for three days straight. But not the owner/chef who actually experienced such a phenomenon: Brian Appiano of the original Rib Line in SLO and a new Rib Line by the Beach in Grover Beach. A throng of food lovers bombarded the eateries after a single airing of the TV show, Man v. Food Nation, filmed in the SLO Rib Line. The show featured Appiano’s signature sandwich, the Brahma Bull ($32.95). It’s always on the menu with the challenge: If you can beat the champ (the current winner ate it in 40 minutes—but advance notice is necessary) you get free lunch every Friday until someone beats your record.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
The food reality series hosted by Adam Richman recorded an episode when the current winner, a high school teacher named Naader Reda, ate the Brahma Bull in 40 minutes. Pshaw, you might say if it was an ordinary sandwich, but get this: The Brahma Bull has three pounds of sliced tri-tip served on a one-pound loaf of sourdough bread with choice of salsa, barbecue sauce, or both. Reda beat the original champion, Dustin Collins, who was second to a man named Tristan (last name unavailable). Collins ate the Brahma Bull in 42 minutes. The current winner gets free lunch every Friday for as long as the record holds, and it gets better: “If they keep the record a full year,” Appiano added, “they get free lunch on Friday for life.”
Man v. Food Nation aired on a Wednesday night, and the next day sales skyrocketed at both Rib Line restaurants. The sales lasted through that Saturday. Believe it or not, Appiano was as distressed as he was exhilarated. It killed him to have to turn customers away, even those who became angry when he was honest about turning them away because he couldn’t serve them properly. As a restaurant veteran, that amazes me. There are unscrupulous restaurateurs who would let people wait an hour only for the hopeful customers to discover the kitchen ran out of food by the time their order came up. Despite Appiano’s attempts to warn customers off, one woman decided to wait for an order of baby back ribs. Sadly, she discovered that by the time they got to her order, they had gone through more than three cases (18 racks per case) of baby back ribs and there were none left for her. Talk about disappointing—although Appiano recalled that she was understanding about it. I would have been bummed out, too, as those succulent, meaty, pork baby backs are my favorite ribs locally.
I favor Appiano’s barbecue restaurants because he puts his heart and soul into his business. He strives for consistency, which is crucial to building a successful restaurant, and he hopes to expand the business. If he finds a product doesn’t live up to his expectations, he finds a better source. For instance, he was unhappy with the beef ribs his supplier brought; they didn’t have enough meat on the bones, so he found another brand that was up to his standards.
“Those Angus beef ribs were my biggest issue. It’s all about quality. You have to have quality,” Appiano admitted. “I’d rather charge more to keep the quality high.”
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
That said, his prices are reasonable, considering the generous portions served. Nearly all of the consumer reviews on Yelp give the Rib Line five stars—with good reason. Most of the foods on the menu are housemade (except French fries), including the signature spice blend, barbecue sauce, and vanilla bean ice cream that goes into the baked apple dessert named for his daughter, Aubrey’s apple alamode.
Appiano manages the business with his wife Krystal. When he started the second location, he partnered with his father, Rick Appiano and his wife Karol. Rick, formerly a general manager for manufacturing plants, was working for a restaurateur in Danville. Now, he’s relocating here to manage Rib Line by the Beach. His friendly demeanor makes him a great front man for the eatery, and it’s clear he enjoys it. He noted: “Nine out of ten people who dine here stop to tell me how much they liked it.”
Rib Line by the Beach is a much bigger restaurant than the SLO original. Here, the Appianos have a liquor license that allows them to offer beer and wine. Besides the beef and pork ribs, burgers, chicken, and his award-winning triple-threat tri-tip chili (no beans) on the menu, the chef added fish and chips and clam chowder. He’s also creating enticing specials: an eight-ounce, coffee-crusted filet mignon wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon; and two French-cut pork chops with apple cider gravy, and rosemary mashers. He’s working on a special steak sandwich made entirely from local products.
When Appiano created the Brahma Bull, he admitted, he was trying to attract the college crowd. A Cal Poly fraternity member himself, Phi Kappa Psi, he laughed when admitting he knows what frat boys like, and he wanted something to attract the football player to Rib Line. But after just one airing of Man v. Food Nation, he’ll never have to work at building his clientele again.
Appiano concluded: “I’m so thankful and grateful about all of this.”
Contact New Times’ Cuisine columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.