While in the search of great eats around New York City, near the top of the cutlery list to try is always great BBQ. This search led Fork & Spoon to RUB BBQ (Righteous Urban Barbeque) in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. Seriously casual, super busy, lousy acoustics, mostly good BBQ, great staff, and……BURNT ENDS.
There a couple of problems with RUB, the first of which is having to time your visit perfectly to have the items on the menu that you like best actually available. Fork understands the concept and reasoning as it was explained, but when you set your tines on something and you cannot order it, that sort of ruins the entire meal.
For a change, Fork arrived at RUB BBQ before Spoon. First thing Fork noticed inside the door was a blackboard announcing NO BURNT ENDS! WHAT!? Quite frankly, burnt ends were what drew us to RUB in the first place! As Fork waited for Spoon, Fork was trying to think of another place we could go close by for barbeque. No burnt ends, what’s the point.
Spoon, being the voice of reason – and starving – said we should try it anyway, we were here, but Fork wasn’t going to like it, wasn’t no way, wasn’t no how.
The iced tea is fresh and bottomless. Our waiter was very nice and very knowledgable about the menu. We asked in the sweetest way possible if there was any possibility of burnt ends – even though the chalk board said no. He went to the kitchen and returned with a sad no. Now what could we possibly order that could possibly remove that disappointment!?
As an aside, after we ordered, our waiter back over to our table with a sly smile and whispered the words, ‘Burnt Ends, would you still like to try some?’ Oh, yes, please. Meat there is ordered by the ‘special’ plate or by the pound, and we greedily ordered a pound of burnt ends.
After looking over the menu and ordering, we learned that BBQ Bacon Chunks can soothe the restlessness of any piece of cutlery! Pork, the cure-all. This is house cured, triple smoked Berkshire black pork belly, cut into one inch pieces, cooked crisp and served in one of those paper boats with pickles on the side. The downside of this starter consists of, perhaps – and my estimate is generous – 2 slices of bacon at a whopping price of $7.95. The bacon is really good and really rich so you probably couldn’t eat more than that (yeah, right!), but that’s a whole lot of coin for very little bacon. Should you still order it? Oh, yes!
Also as a starter we ordered Hush Puppies. These are seriously good. Moist, light, fluffy. The outsides are crispy, the inside tender and moist. Often times hush puppies can be so terribly dry inside that they need something to dip them in to choke them down – not these. The hush puppies are served in a paper boat with butter and honey on the side, but because of the consistency of these little golden beauties, they need nothing more than to be bitten. The hush puppies definitely have more of a flavor than just corn meal, they have Old Bay seasoning inside. The seasoning gives a little extra oomph of flavor to the corn meal. These are another must have.
Our third starter was BBQ Chili Cheese Fries, served in a paper boat (getting a thread here?). This Chili is amazing. Smokey. Tangy. Rich. Great hand-cut fries underneath, and – as if it is really necessary – melted cheese all over the top. The chili is made from brisket and burnt ends that are slow smoked at RUB. As an aside, when you look into the kitchen at RUB, you see a bright red metal wall. At first you wonder what that could possibly be and then you realize those are the SMOKERS! Everything is done on site, and for a tiny place, it is truly amazing. Seriously good chili. Very filling. At this point we could have stopped and called it a night, but we forged ahead.
For those of you not in the BBQ know, burnt ends are the point, or fatty part, of the brisket. First slow cooked on the brisket, and when the brisket is done, cut off and cooked even longer! Our waiter explained that the burnt ends came from the brisket after it was slow cooked for about 8 hours, and that it took approximately 1o pounds of brisket to get 1 pound of burnt ends. Now we know why they are very hit or miss. Although how you cannot be prepared for a busy Friday nite with the popular items on the menu is beyond Fork. THe burnt ends are served in – you guessed it – a paper boat, with pickles on the side.
But the taste! The tenderness! The range of flavors and textures! This dish alone made the entire trip palatable and worthwhile. The outsides of these tender tidbits are charred – not burnt at all – and smokey. The meat falls apart as you try yo pick it up. You just want to keep eating it. It is really hard to explain the delight these chunks of brisket bring to your mouth! You really just need to experience them for yourself!
We continued the gorging with an entree – what nerve. There are a few named entrees, but for the most part it’s 1 meat, 2 meats, 3 meats. So in the spirit of the the film, ‘My Cousin Vinnie’ when Vinnie and Lisa were deciding what to have in a diner, we ordered, meat. We ordered 2 meats and a quarter rack of ribs. HOLY COW. To make matters worse, it came with 2 sides – AND served in a paper boat! We decided to try the Barbequed Beef Brisket, Pulled Pork, we asked for Short End Ribs, and for sides Baked Beans and Onion Strings. This next part is rather easy…
Brisket? As dry as the Sahara desert and not much flavor. It could have been the cut up soul of a shoe.
The pulled pork was terrific. Whatever BBQ sauce the pork is cooked in, or perhaps it’s the flavor the pork puts into the BBQ sauce, was very good. Much better than the BBQ sauces brought to the table. The pork was tender and juicy.
The ribs were not the Short End as requested – which are the last 7 ribs of the slab and more tender - but the Long End – which are the first 6 ribs of the slab and are supposed to be meatier. While this may be true of the Long End, they are also drier and devoid of flavor.
The Barbequed Baked Beans were nothing to speak about. They weren’t good. They weren’t bad. They were just there – and were left there.
The Onion Strings on the other hand were great. They’re like a deconstructed onion loaf. Little strings of onion dipped in batter and deep fried. Unlike an onion loaf that gets soggy and oily as you get to the center, because these are individual pieces of onion everything stays crispy.
Am I glad we trekked here? Yes. Would I go back again? Maybe not. But I would call first to make sure the burnt ends are there. Heck they do take-out and delivery! All that BBQ goodness and in your pjs!
Now, about the paper boats … ok, they are cute and kitsch and fall into the theme of the restaurant, but every boat has a GIGANTIC piece of parchment paper inside of it. If you order multiple items, all there is in front of you is an overwhleming amount of parchment paper. And, to make matters worse, the paper boats, the bouquets of parchment paper are piled onto a round tray. So if you are sitting at a table for two, two trays, filled with boats and paper is enough to confuse you out of appetite.
Now those of you who follow our little drawer of cutlery – or have read our main page – know that we have some restaurant pet peeves. Here’s another – when did restaurants decide diners should pack up their own left overs? ‘I’d like to take this home.’ Next thing you know they are handing you a styrofoam box and a plastic bag. Really? Tips don’t include the occasionally left over pack up?