Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rubs Me the Right Way

Steve, Carlos and I decided to catch a late lunch one Saturday afternoon and since starting the blog, every dining experience is a potential essay. Being a bona fide barbecue fanatic, I had read about Rub and was anxious to give it a try. Until recently, Michael Marx, the chef and co-owner of Rub was the chef and owner of the Blue Agave restaurant in Baltimore, one of my former favorite Mexican places. Chef Marx sold the Blue Agave to open up Rub, and the Blue Agave suffers from his absence.

Rub, Authentic Texas Barbecue Restaurant is located in Baltimore on the farthest end of Federal Hill. So far in fact that it’s almost not on Federal Hill at all. In a semi-industrial neighborhood you can see the highway and the factories around the inner harbor from its doors. However, it is still close enough to action to be a draw for the Federal hill locals.

The d├ęcor is rustic and fun and what you would expect from a BBQ joint. The place is furnished with chunky wooden tables and brick walls with corrugated metal accents. The tables are set with a Corona Beer six pack container filled with sauces and condiments, and a horseshoe footed paper towel holder for you messy eaters. We were seated upstairs and had the place to ourselves due to the odd timing of our meal.

The menu is peppered with kitschy names for everything. Steve and Carlos ordered off the “Tween the Buns” section of the menu and I ordered from the “Big Plates” section. Steve got the “Trail Boss” sandwich ($11.00), a trio of smoked turkey, beef brisket and sausage served on a bun with pickles, cole slaw and cheese. Carlos ordered the Smoked Bologna sandwich ($8.00) and I ordered the “Lone Star Sampler” ($19.00) a sampling of all of their meats. The sandwiches each came with a selection of one of their “Damn Good Sides” and the platter came with two sides. We did order one additional side just for good measure.

So let’s talk about the bad stuff first. Rub should rename their “Damn Good Sides” to “Just kinda alright Sides”. The baked beans were watery and flavorless. I had to add barbecue sauce to them to pump up the experience. The Mac n’ Cheese sounds good, but I found it disappointing. A good Mac n’ Cheese needs some bite. These were creamy and fairly bland. I would have appreciated a nice crust on top that gave way to the creamy goodness below (Side note: Steven loved the Mac n’ Cheese, so maybe it’s just me). The “skin on” fries with garlic and cumin, had no hint of cumin or skin. The one exception with the sides was the corn pudding with Serrano peppers. It was “Damn Good”! A rich egg custard studded with Serrano peppers and bright corn. It could have taken a little more heat, but overall, that was the best of the “Damn Good Sides” that we tried.

I ordered the house brewed root beer and Carlos had the house brewed cream soda. The root beer was wan and unexciting while the cream soda was so damn sweet it was nearly undrinkable.

So much for the bad stuff… let’s talk about the good stuff. First, the portion sizes are incredible. Steve’s sandwich was HUGE, as was Carlos’s. My sampler platter was ridiculous; a mound of beef brisket, a quarter chicken, a full sausage, sliced turkey and three pork ribs. Please don’t ask me how much was left on my plate because I would hate to admit that I ate every damn bit of it.
This is a Texas barbecue joint and as such, beef brisket is the house specialty. Rub’s brisket is slow roasted for 12-14 hours and it is the juiciest and tenderest brisket I’ve ever tasted. At my first bite, I could swear I heard angels singing. The sausage was equally juicy and robust with a great smoke flavor that permeated the meat and casing. The sliced turkey held a dark skin from its time in the smoker and the white meat was moist and chewy. The chicken had a nice rub on the outside and like everything else was near perfection. The ribs were the weakest item on the plate, but that’s not a critiscism… in many other restaurants they would be considered the best thing on the menu.

Steve’s sandwich was piled high with brisket and slice of turkey and one sausage. The crisp cole slaw added the perfect amount of crunch and sweetness. Carlos smoked bologna was stacked high with smoked and griddled bologna that had a great dense and meaty texture. All plates were attractively presented with large cut dill pickle chips and a pickled Serrano pepper.

Rub offers three sauces: a mild and smoky sauce, a spicy and smoky sauce and finally a sweet mustard style sauce. I wasn’t overwhelmed by any of them, but I preferred the mild and smoky sauce finding the other two to be too sweet for my liking. I’m a Kansas City boy and Kansas City barbecue is all about the sauce, which is why it feels strange for me to tell you, that I didn’t want to put sauce on this meat. It was too good for sauce.

One of Texas’ great barbecue joints is a restaurant called the Kreuz Market located in Lockhart, Texas. It has been in operation since 1900. Lockhart, Texas lies out in the country somewhere between Austin and San Antonio. There isn’t much reason to go to Lockhart except to go to Kreuz Market, and people come. They come in droves. People drive for miles and hours to get there, just to sample their barbecue.

When you walk into Kreuz Market you will see a big sign that says, No Sauce, No Sides, No Silverware, and they mean it. You will not find any barbecue sauce, they offer no side dishes and they don’t even have a plastic spoon on the premises. If I owned Rub, Authentic Texas Barbecue restaurant, I would be tempted to make my own sign that said exactly the same thing.
1843 Light Street
Baltimore, MD 21230


Anonymous said...

Mmmmm...sounds good. We'll have to check that out too!

Jade said...

Hey Patrick - did you make the tarts? Drop me an email and let me know how they came out! I want to make it again, but I don't know if I can still get good tomatoes....