Feed Me

The dish on Long Island's restaurant and food scene.

Last night I had dinner at the four-day-old RUB in East Meadow where they know me and what I do for a living.

On a Thursday night the room was mostly full; from where I sat things seemed to be running smoothly. While our party of three waited for our food, I had a Cascazilla ale, one of RUB’s many interesting beers on tap. The table settings consist of knives, forks, paper plates (well, actually, those rectangular paper “boats” with high sides) and lots of napkins. When our waiter brought over two squeeze bottles of sauce (one spicy, one not), I noticed that they were warm. “You don’t want to put cold sauce on warm food,” he told us. Good point.

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If you are looking for sauce at RUB, it will be found mostly in a squeeze bottle. The barbecue here comes naked and it tastes like . . . meat. Yes it was spice-rubbed before it began its long, slow sojourn in one of the three 2,500-pound smokers, and yes it is infused with the scent of smoldering hickory. But this fare is resolutely elemental, blunt. If your heart is set on a more traditional restaurant rib, RUB offers a “12-hour” rack whose ribs have been covered in apricot-mustard sauce and cooked for an additional six hours until they are “fallin-off-the-bone” tender. (For barbecue afficionados, “fallin-off-the-bone” is synonymous with overcooked.)

We ordered the platter dubbed “The Baron” after RUB’s co-owner Paul Kirk (a.k.a. The Kansas City Baron of Barbecue). At $48.25 it was more than enough for three, and it featured brisket, chicken, pulled pork, pastrami, turkey and ribs and came with two large sides — we got both the vinegar- and the mayo-based coleslaw. We also got a plate of burnt ends ($17.75 / pound). Once the whole briskets come out of the smoker, the fatty part (alternately called the deckle, the point, the second cut,  depending on your location / religion / party affiliation) is put back into the smoker until it has metamorphosed into a heady admixture of char and fat, a savory candy.

We chatted briefly with RUB’s East Meadow pitmaster, Matt Fisher and, for the first time, I realized how truly unsuited to restaurant service barbecue is. Most restaurant food is made by taking elements that have been made earlier in the day (sauces, prepared vegetables, portioned meat) and then cooking and garnishing them once they are ordered. (Or, in French, you take your mis en place and then finish the dish a la minute.)

With barbecue, the process of cooking the meat is started a day or so in advance of serving it. Once it's removed from the smoker and cut, there’s a very small window of time for it to remain at its moist, tender best.

“Barbecue is cruel,” is how Fisher put it.

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RUB BBQ is at 2367 Hempstead Tpke., East Meadow, 516-731-4227.

Brisket is sliced at RUB in East Meadow.