May 19, 2005 1:21 AM | By Adam Roberts | 10 Comments

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:


"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.


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:


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.


I have kind of adopted a regional approach to my eating. When I lived in San Diego, I didn't try to find good barbecue or steaks. In Kansas City, I don't bother with Chinese or seafood usually. I save my experiences of those foods when I'm in the place that does the best job with them. I'm guessing that NYC may not be the best place to eat barbecue either because they don't know how to do it right or it's ungodly expensive. Plus, barbecue has some huge regional differences(Kansas City, North Carolina, Texas, Memphis), so you just might not have liked that particular style.

The white bread is there, yes to sop up sauce, but also because it's a barbecue staple, just like the pickles. Just go with it.

You probably would have enjoyed the short end more than the long end. They're really not fattier, just juicer and more flavorful, generally.

Another reason not to move out of the Oklahoma/Texas area: that plate shouldn't have cost more than $10, and they didn't even put sliced onion on it. (Which, like the white bread and pickles, is just there. No one knows why, but you just go with it.)

Hurrah for sweet tea!

I read a lot of articles about how good bbq can be found in the city. Have you tried Blue Smoke? That one gets mentioned a lot. I think Jim Leff mentioned a bunch of NYC bbq places in his book, I can't remember.

But yea $72 for 3 people eating ribs is an absolute rip.

I hope people start drinking sweet tea in all regions of the world.. last night i saw a girl order unsweet (in atlanta!?>!?) and i prayed before bed that God would let yankees and californians have sweet tea on their beverage menus..
Also the white bread is your edible napkin, for any amount of sauce, the grease from your onion strings... wipe your hands only though, not the table. Then enjoy as an afterthought

Well, I beg to differ on the concept of value. I know that it is 28.00 for a rack of ribs at Dreamland in Birmingham. I think it is a misconception that ribs are anything resembling cheap. It probably costs the restaurant close to ten dollars per rack. I have been eating at RUB faithfully since it opened (roughly seven weeks ago) and have been extremely satisfied - and I's from the south.

i misread- 3 x 12 for ribs, 6. for rings, 5 for beer, 5 for 2 teas... that's 54. what happened? desserts? more sides? what's the rest of the story here?

What happened to my comment? I sense censorship

Get over it. $72 for dinner in the city for 3 guys? Sorry, but that's not particularly pricey. Whether if fulfilled a value/cost quotient, I don't know, but it's not often that an evening out ends for less than $50 a person.

you can definitely tell you guys aren't southern, which is where bbq derived from. white bread is there to soak up the juices...and just b/c it is a dry rub, you still pour bbq ALL over it!! southerners always have bread with meals ie: cornbread, biscuits, rolls, etc.

quit complaining!! this is some of the best bbq that i have had here in the north!!

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