New eats: Racks has a 'cooler and younger brother'

Angelo G. Garcia

Posted at Nov 03 2017 06:20 AM | Updated as of Nov 03 2017 12:02 PM

MANILA -- In order to be relevant, restaurant chains have been trying to reinvent themselves. Today's market, led by millennial consumers, are opting for more specific, unique, affordable, and Instagrammable eats. This is why some casual dining chains are updating their look while others are revamping their menus. 

Racks is one of the oldest casual dining smokehouses in the country. But while it has firmly glued its brand to the market, as a business, it still wants to attract new customers. Plans for changes would be launched soon but as of now, they are already trying to make a mark with younger crowd by opening a new concept that still has Racks DNA in it. 

Rackshack's mixed barbecue platter, ribs, pulled pork, and sausages. Photo by author

Calling the concept its “cooler and younger brother,” the restaurant group has introduced Rackshack, a smokehouse that offers familiar flavors in a hipper setting. 
“Racks is kind of in a crossroads now where there is a heavy influx of local smokehouses opening and international smokehouses coming in. We felt we wanted to step up the brand in a younger and hipper way,” explained Rackshack founder Chukri Prieto.

Located at the fifth floor of SM Aura Premier in Taguig, the restaurant exudes a millennial vibe. First of all, the space has that industrial look that appeals to the younger market—wooden tables, wooden benches, steel chairs, and typography and artsy murals on walls. 

They also have dart boards, board games, and mini foosball tables to keep diners entertained. The restaurant's al fresco area has a bar-like feel with a corner bar dedicated to local craft beers like Engkanto. In this area, diners can also enjoy lawn beer pong games. 

Fried chicken and gravy. Photo by author

 “The idea is to get the young adult involved to not just come here to eat. I wanted the store to help with the interactiveness of it by adding a bit of fun, whether be it with board games, foosball tables, beer pong and things like that,” Prieto shared. 

Menu-wise, there's a certain familiarity to the dishes. For instance, the smoked rib with the “mother sauce” is very similar to Racks's ribs with original sauce. Prieto explained that Rackshack's mother sauce and spicy mother sauce are indeed Racks's original sauces. 

In order to offer something new, the restaurant offers three more sauces that diners can play around with. The Kansas Sauce is sweeter with a bit of spice, while the Carolina Gold is tangy, thanks to its mustard base. For an Asian twist, there's also the Hoisin Sauce. 

“The main difference [with Racks] is we give the customer the freedom to do whatever he wants with his plate of barbecue. We have a range of sauces for you to try and to go back and forth and have as much as you like. You can start your first bite with something spicy, you can tone it down with something else for your second bite,” Prieto said. 

Creole shrimp, loaded nachos, and sweet corn salad. Photo by author

Aside from the ribs, must-try dishes include the loaded nachos (crunchy corn chips topped with salsa, pulled pork, sausages, crispy onion rings, cheese and sour cream), carnitas plate (Tex-Mex style barbecued beef served with seasoned rice and nacho with salsa), fried chicken (breaded fried chicken with gravy), house-made sausages, pulled pork meal, and street corn salad (lettuce and grilled corn in creamy dressing).

“The menu is a lot more fast casual, a bit more hip, and a bit of rock and roll. It's really a menu on its own but robbing, so to speak, a little bit from the Racks's brand,” Prieto said.