Did R.U.B. rub us the wrong way?

R.U.B.–an acronym for Righteous Urban BBQ–opened up three blocks below me on 23rd street more than a month ago. Many times I would walk past, gaze into the windows and say “one day, one day.”

That day came yesterday when I called my friends Kirk (of The Daily Kirk) and Himkar (of The Daily Himkar) (just kidding) and invited them to R.U.B. “It might be expensive,” I warned, remembering the menu posted outside and the reactions of several friends who’d been there and said it cost a pretty penny.

Here’s what I knew about R.U.B. going in. It’s owned by Paul Kirk, a championship BBQer–“the Lance Armstrong of the competition-barbecue circuit” according to New York magazine. Also, I knew they served dry-rub BBQ.

“I’ve never had dry rub BBQ,” I told Himkar and Kirk as we walked to R.U.B.

“It’s really good,” said Kirk, “I had it last summer at a fair.”

“I’ll eat anything,” said Himkar.

We arrived a little after six and the place was sort-of crowded, but not really. I wanted this table by the window in the front but they led us to this huge seating area in the back.

“Wow, this place is big,” I said.

We sat down and a chipper waiter came to greet us.

“How ya doing,” he said, “Welcome to R.U.B. Can I start you out with anything to drink?”

I looked at the menu and saw sweet tea.

“Oooh sweet tea,” I said. “I haven’t had that since I was in Atlanta. I’ll have that!”

“Very good,” he said.

“Me too,” said Kirk.

Himkar ordered a beer on tap.

He left and Kirk, Himkar and I studied the menu. I think all three of us were in the mood for ribs. When I’d experienced ribs in the past–at Fat Matt’s in Atlanta, for example–the only question was full slab or half slab. Here the question was: whole slab for $22.75, or short end, long end, or rib tip for half the price.

When the waiter returned with our drinks, I asked him the difference between short end, long end and rib tip.

“Short end is the short end of the rib,” he explained, “so it’s fattier–got lots of flavor. The long end is meater and the rib tip are just the tips and they’re really fatty and good.”

After consulting my comrades, we proceeded to order. We all ordered the long ends because “meatier” appealed to us more than “fattier.”

“Ok,” he said, “Any sides? I think two would be good for the table.”

“How’s onion rings?” I asked Kirk and Himkar.

“Good,” said Kirk, “I think that should be enough.”

“Very good,” said the waiter and exited.

“He tried to upsell us,” said Kirk.

I remembered my days of waitering and upselling. For those not in the industry (haha, like I was in the industry—I waitered for 3 weeks!) upselling is when a waiter encourages the table to spend more money.

The sweet tea was good. Himkar enjoyed his beer. We talked about movies, writing, money, and music. Then the food arrived. Here is what each of us got in front of us:

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“What’s with the white bread?” asked Kirk. “I’ll take it home and make a tuna fish sandwich.”

“They did that in Atlanta too,” said I. “I’m not sure why.” [Chorus of commenters: why DO they do that? So soak up the sauce? But there is no sauce–it’s a dry rub! (well, there is sauce on the side)]

How did it taste?

I thought it tasted ok. Different. Smoky.

“Mmm, it’s good,” said Kirk. “Soft. This is good BBQ.”

I squirted some BBQ sauce on my plate and dipped the pieces in. The sauce was good. It had a kick.

“Good ribs man,” said Himkar. “Pass the sauce.”

In the middle of the table was this basket of fried onions.

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This was plenty for us. We all snacked on them in between our ribs. I took the longest to eat my ribs, maybe because I tend to dominate dinner conversation. (Or all conversation for that matter. Any therapists around?)

“You’re savoring them man,” said Himkar, “it’s cool.”

Actually, I wasn’t really savoring them. My dry-rub experience was disappointing. This was not my kind of rib. (I could make an Adam’s rib joke here, but I won’t.)

Finally, our plates were cleared and the check arrived. $72! $72 for three people to eat ribs! Here’s Kirk and Himkar doling out their money:

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That was more money than any of us wanted to spend for ribs. Kirk enjoyed his ribs more than I did, and I’m not sure even he thought it was worth it. Himkar paid quietly but deep down he grew secretly bitter.

We left and Kirk asked the hostess for a toothpick. She had to go find some behind the bar.

“They should have toothpicks up front at a BBQ joint,” said Kirk.

And that was that. Did R.U.B. rub us the wrong way? A little bit. I’m sure my inexpertise shows here: perhaps a BBQ expert might appreciate what Paul Kirk’s doing. As for me, I’d rather use that money to adopt an orphan. I guess that makes me selfish.

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