Written by adam on Oct 13, 2006
When Que Worlds Collide
Filed Under: Editorial
I could have had corned beef sandwiches from Carnegie Deli, Bagels and Lox from ... well, anywhere. Nathan's Hot Dogs. Or perhaps falafel from that guy on the corner. The list of New York foods could go on and on. Of all the delicious and wonderful foods that New York City has to offer, you would not expect barbeque to be on that list. Barbeque is reserved for places like Kansas City, Austin, Decatur, or Memphis. But New York?
This Texan says yes.
Why would a Texas boy, born and bred in the barbeque lands of the south, go to New York City to eat that which he lives amongst every single day? I did it to check out the growing barbeque scene in the big apple, but also to see if it lives up to my very high standards of what I consider good barbeque. RUB BBQ is a fairly new barbeque joint in midtown Manhattan, created by barbeque legend Paul Kirk. The past 2 years have seen tremendous growth in the New York Barbeque scene, and Kirk's restaurant seems to be leading the way.
RUB brings the heart and soul of Kansas City Competition Que and gently marries it with a little bit of old New York and New England cuisine. The menu boasts typical competition fare such as spare ribs, baby backs, and brisket. But you can also get Italian sausage and smoked duck. RUB is not a hoity toity restaurant. This small joint on 23rd Street reeks of green hickory smoke that softly wafts from the kitchen. Smelling that smell upon entering RUB was enough to make me sigh in contentment. The atmosphere is quaint and slightly elegant. But the food being served on butcher paper brings it all back home to where barbeque should be.
Talking with RUB co-owner Andrew and my two companions of the blogging world, Robert "WhiteTrashBBQ" Fernadez, and Matt "Backyard Chef" Fisher, you get the feeling that you are not in New York, rather in the pits of Memphis in May or The Big Pig Jig. They are passionate about their Que, and one gets the sense that nothing is going to stop them from bringing real barbeque to the masses of New York and a air of credibility to Yankee land Que.
One of the most interesting things that I tried (aside from the fried Oreos) was the so-called "burnt ends." The cooks at RUB remove the entire point from the briskets which are put back into the smoker for an additional 3-5 hours. Then, it is cut into small pieces and served. After a discussion about how Texas brisket is served "lean" or "with a little bit of flavor," Andrew suggested to me that I try the burnt ends. In Texas, "little bit of flavor" means there is fat. The point tends to be a little bit fatty, but when it is double cooked, the flavor is unbelievable.
Being barbeque fanatics, the entire evening was peppered with conversations on barbeque, different styles, competition Que versus backyard, and the everpresent discussion on the differences between New York Que and Texas Que.
Barbeque is a hot topic among enthusiasts, and a New York Magazine writer noted that they can be "dubiously hypercritical." Not only are we hypercritical, but we are extremely protective and defensive of what is our taste and what are our beliefs. If you poke in on some of the conversations at the BBQ-Brethren Message Forum, you will find a lot of knowledge, but also a tremendous amount of contention. I've seen forum users get hypersensitive when it comes to the issue of aesthetics in competition presentations. And that's just over lettuce.
Before arriving at RUB, I was honestly worried that I might find myself in the middle of a heated debate over this or that, but such was not the case. The folks I dined with were respectful and extremely knowledgeable. They respected other's points of views as well as making their disagreements known in a courteous and constructive manner. After we settled in with some beers and a basket of burnt ends, I began to relax with the realization that people like this understand that sometimes it is not about what ingredients are used, what methods are used, or how the meat is presented. It's about eating good barbeque. And I think anyone out there can be a judge of that.
Andrew allowed us a short tour of the kitchen while the action was going on. We got to see the fire engine red pits that were custom built in Mesquite, Texas. If you notice the picture, there is an extensive fire supression and ventilation system. From what I know, New York City has some strange laws about smoke coming from buildings.
That was a real treat, one I'm not likely to forget.
I've been reminiscing on the evening, and have nothing but fond memories and respect for my companion. We were sitting in a New York City barbeque restaurant; a guy from Texas, a guy from Brooklyn and a guy from Queens. For one evening we were not really known for our respective locales, rather, we had come together as one united group to discuss and consume our passion.
Responses to "When Que Worlds Collide" ...
It was great having you in NYC. Come back soon! Next time I'm down in Austin I'll defintely look you up.
BTW - Burnt ends aren't fried. There the point of the brisket that has been removed and returned to the pit for another round of smoke and goodness.
I guess our New Yawk accent was a bit much. I'm sure the Blue Goose Ale had nothing to do with it.