In honor of Meat Week 2013, I decided to try the newest BBQ restaurant here in Ann Arbor, R.U.B. (Real Urban BBQ). R.U.B. has three locations in S.E. Michigan (Detroit, Warren and Ann Arbor), but isn’t exactly a chain at this point. The Ann Arbor location is at the intersection of Packard and State, the building that used to be Artisan Bistro and most recently the Packard Pub.
R.U.B. has a variety of smoked meats on their menu, including brisket, ribs, pulled chicken and pulled pork. They have the typical sides (e.g., baked beans, cole slaw, mac & cheese, corn bread, etc.). They also have a pretty good list of beers on draft (several from Michigan breweries, as well as craft brews like Fat Tire Amber from New Belgium Brewing Company). Also there were an array of house made BBQ sauces, named: Detroit (slightly smoky), Kansas City (sweet), Carolina (mustard), Texas (peppery) and Michigan (Apple, mostly vinegar).
I have to admit, when it comes to BBQ, I am a bit of a snob. I am willing to give almost any BBQ restaurant a chance, but if I determine that I prefer a something that I can make at home to their offering, I am unlikely to try it at that restaurant again. My litmus test for BBQ is pulled pork. I have been making pulled pork on my own smoker for about eight years and have developed my own spice rubs and sauce.
That being said, I tried the pulled pork with mac & cheese and baked beans for my sides. I won’t be going back for the pulled pork. The texture was good, very tender and somewhat juicy, but there really wasn’t a great deal of smoke flavor. I tried tasting it with a bit of each of the sauces and concluded that with the Detroit sauce it was ok. My mac & cheese was very flavorful with a velvety creaminess around the noodles and a crispy surface across the top of the bowl. The baked beans were also very tasty, with noticeable bits of meat, bell pepper and onion that created a well-rounded flavor profile.
My friend Glenn had the brisket with cole slaw and corn bread, so we could sample a bit of everything. Having tasted a single piece of the brisket, I can determine that I will go back to R.U.B. for more of that. The brisket has a good smoky flavor and has a very defined smoke ring. In addition, it was moist. Although it didn’t need any, the brisket matched very well with the peppery Texas sauce. As for Glenn’s choices of sides, I did not care for the cole slaw (not much flavor and relatively large pieces of cabbage and onion–almost as if there was very little dressing on it and it was just bits of raw vegetable) and the corn bread was sweeter than I prefer and was spongy (more like a cake than a dense, corn bread).
Ultimately, my verdict on R.U.B. as a BBQ destination is mixed. I really liked the brisket and will have that again. I would also be interested to try some of the ribs and even some burnt ends. I don’t have an official rating system, but saying that I would go back should mean something.