Arbuckles has an American-style decor and menu. The rib-and-wing combo, left, is among its most popular dishes.

Arbuckles has an American-style decor and menu. The rib-and-wing combo, left, is among its most popular dishes. (Photos by Charlie Reed / S&S)

DOWNHAM MARKET — Got a hankering for barbeque ribs?

Look no further than Arbuckles on the A-10 just outside Downham Market, a 30-minute drive from RAF Mildenhall.

"Any combination with ribs is the most popular," said owner John Murphy, who bought the restaurant from the now-defunct Fatty Arbuckles chain.

Murphy kept intact the Fatty Arbuckles basic American fare menu and much of its "red, white and blue" motif when he opened his restaurant — sans "Fatty" — eight months ago.

"We wanted to buy it because it’s a very lucrative brand when it’s run right. It’s a winner," said Murphy, who worked for Fatty Arbuckles for more than a decade before venturing out on his own.

"It’s been unbelievably well-received," said Murphy, who acts as host at the restaurant, which has a truck-stop feel and is located next to a Jet gas station on the motorway.

It’s easy to see why, as Murphy claims, the restaurant is always busy as it was at lunchtime on a recent weekday. And the ribs speak for themselves.

The ribs-and-wings combo (11.95 pounds) is a hearty portion of fall-off-the-bone beef ribs covered with just the right amount of sweet barbecue sauce and fries. Now if you’re from the South or any other region of the States known for its barbecue, you know that "the sauce" is the key ingredient to good barbecue and can range from tangy to sweet to smoky. There’s no variety at Arbuckles, but its recipe tastes better than you might expect from a British barbecue joint.

On to the wings. While the ribs were perfect in every culinary way possible, the wings left a little to be desired. First of all, they were quite small, some misshapen. Secondly, they were a little bland and the skin was not as crispy as you would expect for "naked" (unbreaded) wings. Again, wing connoisseurs from the States do not have the same opportunities to appreciate a varied selection of this blue-collar American delicacy overseas, so beggars can’t always be choosers. Basically, these wings will do but they won’t knock your socks off.

The rest of the menu includes a variety of steaks, burgers, sandwiches, fajitas and uber-American classic starters, such as fried mozzarella sticks, nachos, potato skins and onion rings.

Arbuckles also serves onion petals, a slightly spicy version of its ringed cousin. The coleslaw was a little heavy on the mayo but otherwise a fresh combination of carrots and cabbage and right on par with the American version.

For those watching their weight, there is a nice selection of dinner salads and a small, but surprisingly good, side salad is served with many of the plates. Ask for the sweet corn relish to dress your greens.

It’s hard to save room for dessert when you come to Arbuckles. But it’s a place you go ready to chow down, so why skip dessert? Although I didn’t have room, I would have ordered the "United Plates of America" (7.95 pounds) that includes apple pie, waffles, pancakes and brownies. Yep, a gluttonous variety of American foods served authentically and with a smile awaits you at Arbuckles. You even get a wet nap at the end!

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