A restaurant that bills itself as "the place for ribs" sets itself up for a couple of challenges. First, the ribs had better be really, really good. Second, the food other than the ribs had better be good enough to lure back the Wilmas of the world. (You know, the ones who go to the rib place only because Fred Flintstone insists.)
Damon's rises to the challenges. The ribs are good enough to leave Fred licking his fingers and Dino purring in contentment. The rest of the menu is creative and extensive enough to entice Wilma, Betty, Pebbles - the whole gang.
Damon's menu reflects lots of 1990s staples (grilled chicken, steamed veggies, fried appetizers, etc.), but its touches are distinctive, and choices abound.
Offerings include prime rib, meatloaf, pasta dishes, grilled and fried seafood, steaks, chicken, combos, soups, salads and sandwiches. Most entrees are served with bread, salad and one of 10 side dishes: mashed potatoes with gravy, french fries, cole slaw, vegetable of the day, baked potato, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, garden rice, applesauce and pecan-crusted candied sweet potato casserole.
And did we mention the ribs? The menu brags of meaty pork ribs (full or regular rack) cooked tender, smothered with barbecue sauce and finished on an open flame. Ours (a regular rack, $13.99) were succulent and satisfying, with a pleasingly sweet sauce. Our side dish of macaroni and cheese was wildly cheesy - is it sacrilege to say almost too cheesy?
The accompanying shrimp boat salad ($7.99) we had got high marks for freshness, attractive presentation and the welcome touch of finely diced vegetables. Damon's salads are generously sprinkled with tomatoes, cucumbers, cheeses and seasoned, crunchy toppings. The shrimp boat salad was positively smothered in fried popcorn shrimp.
We also passed around an onion loaf ($4.29), which was made fresh. The onions were sweet; the batter was crispy; and the dipping sauce was deliciously tangy.
We have a minor bone to pick (presumably, a rib restaurant has plenty to spare) about the bread. The menu promises that garlic rolls accompany the entrees, but we were told the rolls are served only at dinner. Lunch diners get banana nut muffins. These sweet, rich muffins are nothing short of heavenly, but they seem like a mismatch with the entrees, particularly the ribs. (Note: Even as we were expressing this opinion, we were polishing off the muffins.)
Also, clutter accumulated hopelessly on our table, though the service was otherwise excellent. Our server was friendly, knowledgeable and unflappable. The food was served promptly, and comfort abounded. We liked the faux-wood tables, Tiffany-style lamps, upholstered booths and subtle but strategically placed television sets.
Mary Deriso is the retired general manager of the Pinnacle Club, a private dining club in Augusta. Christine Hurley Deriso is a writer whose articles and humor essays have been published in national magazines.
Restaurant: Damon's, 3064 Washington Road
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday