Update: The chef is now Dan Kelleher.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Ritz manager Ben DeForest left the business. Short lived. Ben came back. Now he’s the managing partner of the iconic Oak Bluffs bar and restaurant.
With this new role, came a renewed passion to create and serve Oak Bluffs style bbq and soul food at The Ritz. So, The Ritz closed its doors and went though a remodel. When you walk in, it still feel like The Ritz, but a bit different.
The walls have a new look as does the dining area and the bathrooms. You can see Ben’s vision. It’s a little rock and roll with a nod to the Rolling Stones here and there, along with the Blues Brothers, and great local artwork, including Traeger Di Pietro (thanks Jesse Hayes for these great shots).
There is a new vibe too, with great blues music surrounding the whole space (when there’s not live music).
The Ritz is a bar and soul kitchen concept by Ben De Forest. He worked with Ritz chef, Donnie Glass, to create the menu which has a definite personality.
I was lucky to have Donnie chat with me while I was experiencing the food for the first time. Donnie is easy going, has a sense of humor, and loves to cook. For him, hospitality is a noble profession, and he is driven to make good food.
Not crazy gastro-smastro dishes, but food that is full of flavor and made with great ingredients. When he speaks about making food, you can feel the love he has for it. I should mention that he is extremely humble too.
Now that I have rattled on about Donnie (might have a little chef crush on him), lets talk about food. The menu is all BBQ and soul food. With that said, it’s not just ribs and cornbread. Oh no my friend. Oak Bluffs style BBQ is so much more.
Snacks — forget the word appetizer, it’s Snacks here. I stared with the Deviled Eggs (three for $5). What a way to begin! Made with Old Bay seasoning, hot sauce, and get this, spicy pickle juice, these are more than egg-cellent!! Highly recommend.
Onto the Linguica Biscuits & Black-Eyed Pea Humus. House-made hummus was so good, along with the pickled okra, but the show stopper was the biscuit. Made fresh daily, this biscuit is one that you’ll want with every Ritz dish. It was light, flakey, flavorful, and how I wished I saved a little piece to use to soak up some BBQ sauce later on.
I also tried the Peanut Soup, with cranberries and herbs. This was a little different. I liked it, but I think I just needed a little shot of this and maybe more biscuits. However, fun to try new things.
Donnie really enjoys working with fish, and having the Oak Bluffs Fish Market right down the street makes it easy to have the freshest fish. There is a Ceviche Today on the menu.
On the day I went, it was swordfish. A first for me in ceviche form. It was delicate and the citrus and herbs were a nice combination. A nice way to add a little coolness to your BBQ feast.
Not on the menu (coming soon I hope), I also had a small dish of grits with roasted cauliflower and swordfish. Yes the cauliflower and swordfish were delicious but the grits stole the show. So smooth and cheesy and buttery. Wow. I scraped the bowl to get every last tiny bit. Think you don’t like grits? Think again.
These are found on the Ritz brunch menu, and as Donnie says “Grits are like mac & cheese that you don’t even have to chew.” I think I would take Donnie’s grits over mac & cheese any day.
Back to the dinner menu….up next St. Louis Ribs with house made BBQ sauce. Now these are ribs, fall off the bone, moist morsels of goodness, worthy of making a mess of your hands and face. The BBQ sauce is sweet yet tangy ,yet a little smokey, and the house-made cornbread was so yummy, especially when smothered with the sauce. If this is Oak Bluffs style BBQ, I don’t need any other.
I have to mention the delicious collard greens (not overcooked and mushy) and the lovely watermelon salad. There was something really nice about the cool crispness of the watermelon after the ribs. The contrast of texture and temperature so different, it was like a little after party.
That was it. I was done. I over ate and had to force myself to stop. I wanted to try everything, including the O.D.G (Ol’ Dirty Gumbo) and the Spicy Reliable Sausage, a special blend made right up the street, just for The Ritz. But these had to wait.
Oh, I should also mention that there is a beautiful list of craft cocktails. Each cocktail on the list consists of great ingredients, including fresh fruit and house-made syrups. I had the Tequila Mockingbird which was quite good.
Made with Blanco Tequila, house-made spicy smoked pineapple syrup and lime. You could taste the fresh lime and pineapple. So yummy. It’s a cocktail that you can sip, or have a couple of.
Next time I’d love to try the The Fault in Our Stars which has one of Tiny Baker’s lavender sugar heart, and Peychauds Bitters. Sounds so delicious and refreshing, and a great way to celebrate any day.
The Ritz is currently open for dinner only until summer comes. You can enjoy Oak Bluffs style BBQ seven nights a week, along with live music! The Mike Benjamin Band was setting up as I was leaving. If I didn’t have another commitment, I probably would have stayed a while longer.
The Ritz not only has an amazing food menu, but it’s still the nighttime hot spot it’s always been, staying true to it’s musical roots (thanks Jesse Hayes for this party shot).
Author’s Note: This is an abbreviated version, but I had to know how Ben and Donnie started working together.
Last year, Donnie walked into the back door at Red Cat Kitchen (Ben’s Oak Bluffs restaurant). Donnie liked what was happening there and the food Ben was creating. Asked if he needed any help, and low and behold, Ben needed a chef at The Ritz. The rest is delicious history. Two totally different style chefs, one amazing new concept, in an iconic Island bar/restaurant.
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