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'Universal ribs'
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It’s been estimated that as many as one-third of the people who visit Savannah end up moving here.

I won’t quibble with that. After all, that’s what happened to me -- Savannah just reached out and grabbed me.

Meet Anita and David Brents, formerly of Indianapolis. After making Savannah their only annual vacation spot, they decided to pack up and move here permanently.

“We got bored in Indiana,” Anita says. “We lived in the country, where all you have to do is mow the grass. We kept vacationing here, and decided to move here.”

And, oh my, they brought their recipes with them. The result is Gourmet Ribs Savannah, a new restaurant at the corner of Habersham and 34th streets in the old Carver State Bank building.

“When we were in Indianapolis we had a catering business for four years,” Anita says. “We catered baby-back ribs.”

The restaurant provides a place where customers can come and eat, something the Brents could not provide in Indianapolis. It’s small but homey, and the food is divine.

“We really like it here a lot,” Anita says. “We never had a place where people can come in and eat our ribs. With the catering business it was only him and me. We had to go different places. He’d go to the east side of Indianapolis, I’d go south.”

Now the Brents get to the restaurant together in the morning and start cooking. “We get the food prepared and turn on the open sign,” Anita says. “Our customers say we have the best ribs they’ve ever had.”

David started fixing baby-back ribs when the Brents couldn’t find good ribs anywhere in Indianapolis. “My uncle used to do the best ribs in Indianapolis 40 years ago,” he says.

“I think I must channel him when I fix ribs,” David says. “It seemed like five years ago, we couldn’t find good ribs, so I started doing them myself.”

I’m a barbecue fanatic, and have tried it all: wet, dry, vinegar, mustard, Memphis, North Carolina-style, you name it, I’ve tried it. The Gourmet Ribs Savannah barbecue is in a class of its own.

“We do wet ribs, but it’s my own style,” David says. “I combine some things from many other styles, but it’s mostly my own.

“We have people from all over who like our ribs,” he says. “They’re universal ribs. They have components from almost everywhere.”

The meat is so tender it falls off the bone. It also is juicy and flavored to perfection.

David has created his own sauces, a traditional barbecue sauce and a very non-traditional raspberry-chipotle sauce that customers can’t seem to get enough of.

“I feel our food is personal,” Anita says. “We make our own sides. We also do them a little bit differently -- traditional with a twist.”

“We do have people who come in and say they don’t eat ribs,” David says. “They say they’re too fatty and aren’t good for them.”

Not these ribs. “I’m scientific with the ribs,” David says. “It has to have a good flavor, but it has to be healthy, too.”

A diabetic, David has learned a lot about cooking and eating healthy foods. “I take out 75 percent of the fat and I take 50 percent of the carcinogens out of the charcoal,” he says.

Carcinogens are those nasty cancer-causing particles. But don’t worry, you won’t miss them -- these ribs are absolutely delicious even without fat and carcinogens.

They’re also photogenic. “The ribs have got to look good,” David says as he presents a platter of real beauties, hot off the grill.

“The Japanese have a passion for the beauty of food,” he says. “I have that passion.”

Still don’t like ribs? There’s more to choose from.

The menu at Gourmet Ribs includes not only baby back ribs, but pulled pork and Cornish hens. The side dishes are potato salad, baked beans and cole slaw, with a choice of banana pudding with caramel or warm peach cobbler for dessert. The desserts are made fresh daily.

Believe it or not, David himself is not a rib man. “I prefer the hen,” he says.

Whatever they’re fixing, the Brents enjoy cooking. “We just love feeding people,” Anita says.

“We used to serve a lot of people at our house,” David says. “Our first Thanksgiving, we had 16 to 20 people. We had everything from turkey to German chocolate cake. You didn’t hear anything for an hour.”

“When I’m back behind the counter and hear someone say, ‘This is good,’ I feel like they are my dinner guests,” Anita says.

“We don’t skimp on anything,” David says. “I’ve seen too many places that did. I’d rather make less money than cut corners.”

You can choose to dine in or carry food out. The gourmet baby-back ribs are $20 for a whole slab, $10 for a half-slab or $5 for a rib sandwich. The Cornish hens are $10 for a whole hen or $5 for a half, while the pulled pork sandwiches are $1.50 each. The sides are $1.50 each and the desserts are $3 each.

“We have a lunch special that is really good,” Anita says. “It has choice of a rib sandwich or two pulled pork sandwiches, one side and one dessert for $7.50.”

At some point, the Brents may start catering again. For now, they are feeding happy folks at their restaurant and enjoying Savannah.

David admits to some culture shock after first moving to Savannah. Most notable is the slower pace of life.

“It’s different than any place I’ve ever been in the South, and I went to college in the South,” he says. “Just don’t get in a hurry.”

Gourmet Ribs Savannah is located at the northwest corner of Habersham and 34th streets. Hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., but those hours will be extended in the summer. Call 233-1755 for take-out orders.