Family First, Fantastic Food
A young woman sat in the back corner of the restaurant. She rapidly blinked her bloodshot eyes, desperately trying to hold together her emotions, knowing that she was in a public space. It was useless. The tears continued to flow. The concerned server watched her for a few moments. She would pick up her spoon and timidly bring the steaming food to her lips, only to break down once again. He rushed to the kitchen to tell the owner, who promptly put down the towel she was holding and made her way to the dining area.
Sharon Harrell has been the owner and operator of TC’s World Famous Rib Crib in Las Vegas, Nevada for fifteen years. It has been a family business from the very beginning. Post-hurricane Katrina, the family brought their Louisiana-born recipes to the Vegas valley, and they were established in 2004. The unique barbecue sauce has been in the family since 1902, and the macaroni and cheese dish was first created on a South Carolina slave plantation generations ago. They have worked hard to preserve the authentic Southern taste over the years by maintaining the same techniques and ingredients. Naming the restaurant after her father, Thomas Charles, Sharon and her husband, Irving, were sure to keep the family culture at the restaurant’s core. From naming side dishes after the relatives who had created the recipes to lining the walls with dozens of portraits of ancestors representing generations of lineage, it is obvious what serves as the driving force of this establishment.
“Honey, are you okay?” Sharon asked, gently touching the customer’s shoulder.
Sniffing and wiping her nose with a napkin, the woman looked up, surprised at being approached. “Oh! Yes, I am. It’s just that this food reminds me so much of how my mother used to cook.” As Sharon sat down at the table with her, the woman proceeded to share that her mother had recently passed away.
Moments like this are why Mrs. Harrell loves what she does. “It just feels good to know that you’ve touched someone, even if no one else knows about it. We just believe in doing the right thing and being good to people. My family is what inspires me. Family is everything. This restaurant is just an extension of that. You can’t teach someone to care about people. It’s part of who you are.”
TC’s World Famous Rib Crib has participated in several community events over the years, including providing catering for the Las Vegas Boxing Hall of Fame and the Holy Smoke – Misfit Missionaries group, who help the homeless population living in the tunnels of Las Vegas. In 2017, the restaurant was featured in the Las Vegas Review-Journal when Hurricane Irma left over 70 players and staff of the Miami Central Rockets high school football team stranded in Las Vegas after playing a game against local high school, Bishop Gorman. While waiting for airports to reopen and communication with family members to be restored after the storm, TC’s Rib Crib provided dinner to the weary group. Most recently, TC’s donated food for forty people at the non-profit event, “Are You the Woman at the Well?”, Women’s Workshop at the Beacon Center, to help motivate and encourage women who have been victims of domestic violence and abuse.
In addition to the barbecue ribs that made the restaurant famous, other menu choices include fried catfish, pulled pork, hotlinks, hamburgers, beef brisket, chicken wings and barbecue chicken. The featured side items are Grandma Georgia’s macaroni and cheese, Aunt Ada’s potato salad, Cousin Joe’s greens, Big Sam’s baked beans, Uncle Earl’s coleslaw, and Ms. Claudette’s green beans. There are also daily specials throughout the week, such as the Monday “Kids Eat Free” special, or the “Get an Extra Waffle with Your Chicken and Waffles” offer on Wednesdays. No matter which day of the week, patrons can choose to grab a quick snack or order a family platter to feed the entire household. Desserts include banana pudding, peach cobbler, and glazed donut bread pudding.
Catering for all types of occasions is available, as well. From a small intimate gathering to a feast to feed the masses, TC’s World Famous Rib Crib has done it all. They can provide delivery, servers, set-up, and chafing dishes to accommodate any event. In fact, the bulk of the business comes from outside catering. Their largest event to date was the employee appreciation picnic for the massive renowned London-based Hakkasan Nightclub in the MGM Grand, where they served thousands of guests.
When asked what she sees as the future for the restaurant, Sharon Harrell expressed that she knows that she wants to leave a legacy. She is dedicated to maintaining the down-home personal feel that makes her customers seem more like family, and she refuses to give that up for the sake of expansion and growth. While she and her husband are considering opening a second location, she insists she will only do so when she is sure that she can duplicate the sincerity that the original restaurant so perfectly possesses. What is most important to Mrs. Harrell is what has always been most important – family, community, and providing delicious food.