Summer has almost arrived, and I am itching to uncover my grill and spend a lazy afternoon in the backyard with friends. The first dish on my barbecue menu will be these sweet and spicy ribs from one of my favorite spots in Northern California, Zazu Restaurant.


Located in Sonoma County wine country, Zazu is a roadhouse that takes diner food and turns it on its head. Owners Duskie Estes and John Stewart turn out mouthwatering seasonal dishes like Star Anise Rubbed Duck, Poppyseed Crusted Softshell Crab, Tomato Panzanella, and Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes using produce from their own garden and a nearby farm where they raise chickens, pigs, turkey, and sheep. The wine list features dozens of local wines and the laid-back atmosphere attracts local winemakers and locals as well as the tourist crowd. (The duo also own the must-visit Bovolo in nearby Healdsburg, known for their housemade salumi.) For these lip-smacking ribs, Estes and Stewart have used the classic peppery, sweet soda Dr. Pepper and added fresh Bing cherries, which are just hitting the markets here in Northern California. Your grill will never be the same.

Dr. Pepper & Bing Cherry Baby Back Ribs

  • 2 racks baby back ribs (1 1/2 – 2 pounds each)

For the spice rub:

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seed, ground
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed, ground
  • 1 tablespoon chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
  • For the braise:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cans Dr. Pepper
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 ancho chilis

To finish the sauce:

  • Brown sugar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound fresh Bing cherries, pitted and cut in half
  1. Fire up your grill and preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs.
    In a small bowl, combine the rub ingredients. Rub the spice rub all over the
    ribs. Grill the ribs until both sides are nicely browned.
  3. In a roasting pan on medium high heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil, add the onions. Once aromatic, within about 5 minutes, add the ribs with all the remaining braising ingredients. Cover with foil and place in the oven until the meat begins to pull away from the bone, about 2 hours. Remove the ribs from the braise and strain the braising liquid, discard the solids.
  4. In a saucepan on medium high heat, adjust the braising liquid to taste with brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, chili flakes, and salt. Add the cherries.
  5. Cut the ribs and reheat in the sauce in a pan on the stove or in the oven.

Serves 4; recipe courtesy Zazu