As some of you may have seen I recently reviewed Birmingham’s new American inspired restaurant on Broad street, Rub smokehouse and bar. In summary, I gave them a good review and said it was a good place to eat with an enjoyable atmosphere with plenty to offer its customers, although my burger was ever so slightly over done as I prefer my beef a little rarer. This was by no means a criticism just an observation made within an overall good experience at Rub.
As it turns turns out they read my review and got in touch. Throughout the review I had plenty of positive things to say about the experience but they paid special attention to the fact that my burger was a touch past my preference and it really mattered to them that it wasn’t a 100%, so I was invited back again to have a look around their kitchen to see how they prep their service, meet the management and have something else to eat. Naturally I accepted their generous offer and went to see them after work on Thursday of last week.
I was greeted by a few of the front of house staff and asked for Sean, who came out to meet me and take me to a table he has set aside for us to talk at. We sat for a few minutes and talked about the history of the company, how Rub came about, their philosophy and where they are going next, which was quite an interesting chat. The company is run by three people who all have strengths in different areas but all really care about what Rub smokehouse presents to it’s customers, this trio consists of Sean Singer, Luke Billingham and Jason Rowe who have a combined experience of 45 years in the food industry. All three have come together to successfully create a brand that is stylish, loud, fun and friendly, starting with their branch in Nottingham and as of just under four weeks ago, Birmingham.
Sean walked me through their smoking process and showed me the kitchen during service which was an enlightening experience as the kitchen wasn’t nearly as big I thought it would be but they use the space so incredibly well. One side of the kitchen is used for meat preparation and is home to Hank and Marvin. These two guys are very good at what they do and do a minimum shift of 16 hours straight, seven days a week… mainly because Hank and Marvin are the names of the smokers! Hank holds the beef brisket and Marvin is your guy for the pork shoulder. Smoking the meat for 16 hours using Hickory creates a mild and universally appealing flavour and ensures the meat gives up any hope of being anything other than melt in the mouth. They are the stars of the show and are an invaluable asset to the kitchen and it shows in just how much they are used, as Sean informed me they actually get through around 3,500kg of meat a week. Yes guys that is not a typing error… 3,500kg of meat a week, which begs the question:
‘How good is the meat and do they cut any corners to keep up with demand?’
The short answer is; very good and no. All of their meats are sourced from a farm in North Yorkshire called Sykes house farm and they receive 7 daily deliveries per week. Not a single piece of meat is frozen at Rub as it is used at its freshest straight from the farm. There is a large walk in fridge that holds it all until it is used as day one is spent planning for day two, for instance, Monday’s are spent prepping Tuesdays meat in the smoker etc. All other fresh produce such as vegetables, salad and none meat based produce is kept in a separate walk in fridge closer to the main runs of the kitchen, Interestingly enough there are also two microwaves in the building and they are used for two things and two things only, heating babies bottles and warming up porridge. Not a single drop of food that is served on the main menu enters them. Which is fantastic as everything from the burgers, steaks, fries, corn dogs, smoked cheddar mash and all the other fantastic sides are made fresh that day. Not too shabby for a place that can cater for 400 covers at once.
After looking at the kitchen and food storage I took a peak into the ‘cellar’ to look at their keg and cask set up which was also an interesting part of the visit for me as its very much an aspect of my day job working in sales for Marston’s brewery. They have multiple beers on tap at the bar including Blue moon, Brew dog’s Punk IPA, Brooklyn Lager, Samuel Adams and Budweiser to name a few, making their selection predominantly on message with the all American theme with the exception of a few great European beers (I’m looking at you Brew dog). All in all they cater for most beer drinkers and can offer you a decent amount of choice when looking for a drink to go with your ribs.
Once this was all said and done we sat down again and talked for a little longer about their POS system and how the staff will take orders as the restaurant develops. The system is used by each member of staff using an Ipad strapped to their wrists making notepads a thing of the past and offering the customer a more interactive experience, for example if I wasn’t sure if I wanted the Rub-dog millionaire or the Rub burger I can ask the member of staff to simply press the option on their screen to reveal a picture of the dish in question. Better yet when it comes to adding my optional extras I can be handed the Ipad to select my own additions such as extra meat, cheeses, onions, pickles and that sort of thing to make each meal a truly unique, customisable experience. A really great idea made even more unqiue by the fact they are the only company to use the system in the UK at the present moment in time, paving the way for the rest of the industry to look and take note. Rub smokehouse and bar are making waves and showing people how its done in more ways than one it seems.
Sean then offered to order me some food using the system so I could see the whole process and get to grips with it, I accepted his offer and ordered the Reuben sandwich, which is a wonderful combination of the slow cooked beef brisket, slaw, Monterrey jack cheese and pickles on a sour dough roll smothered in their Jack Daniels enriched gravy. I was then handed the Ipad to select my additional extras and customise the dish, a very simple and effective way of creating something truly awesome, however I restrained myself and only had a few bits like bacon, extra pickles, extra cheese and switched the standard fries for sweet potato ones. I didn’t want to take anything away from the brisket itself as I wanted to experience it fully and not overload the sandwich so I could judge it on its own merit. Hank had done a stellar job of looking after this one as it just fell to pieces as I attempted to cut it, I gave up any hope of picking anything up with hands the minute it came to table, it was a glorious gravy laden mountain of meat and sour dough bread and I loved it. The fries were delicate and sweet on the inside and had a wonderfully satisfying crunch upon biting into them, they were not in the slightest bit greasy either which was fantastic! A good helping of salt and French’s mustard took them to another level and completed the dish. The rest of the sandwich was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and it all came together to put something really special on my platter! The bacon provided a strong salty hit, the gravy was a rich and silky quilt over the entire sandwich, the extra pickle spiked every bite with a tangy punch that sliced through from the background and left enough room on the palate for the cheese to enter the fray. Fantastic.
Funnily enough I really loved my Thursday and Sean kept me entertained for well over an hour, which I cannot convey enough gratitude for as he is a busy man. The Birmingham branch is a perfect representation of everything that makes Rub and their philosophy so great in my eyes as it is a fun and welcoming atmosphere, offering amazing food and an incredible amount of passion. Passion for their customers and the food they serve, passion for the way their staff feel and a passion for making sure everybody leaves with a smile on their face wanting more, while literally being incapable of putting anymore in that is!
Rub smokehouse and bar is the perfect place to eat and have fun with family or friends. If you want a restaurant that offers more potential in one menu run (which changes around every three months) than some places do in a whole year’s worth of menu development, an atmosphere that is comfortable with itself and happy knowing it doesn’t apologise for being true to their philosophy, produces extraordinarily great food and cares so much about their customers they will spend precious time with somebody to talk about the hard work that do on an everyday basis then this is the place for you. A special mention has to go to Sean for taking the time to see me and looking after me so well, I also feel like this is the start of a great relationship between this blog and Rub and I thoroughly hope they continue to go from strength to strength, making all of their future plans possible so more and more people can share this brilliantly unique dining experience.
Rub is unapologetic in its quest for unique awesomeness …and I love them for it.