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Combine Detroit favorites like sports on television, barbecue and beer, put them in a strategic location, staff the place with servers and bartenders who know how to smile, and it's a pretty good recipe for success.
The almost 1-year-old Rub BBQ Pub has done just that, in a space on Grand Circus Park that in another era housed a popular watering hole called the Brass Rail.
The extensive menu at Rub includes the expected dishes, from baby back and St. Louis-style ribs to pulled pork and beef brisket, and extends a welcome to non-meat eaters with an array of salads and sides from the classic Caesar and Greek to coleslaw and collard greens — not that I would recommend Rub to a vegetarian.
The setting, with the huge bar on one side and a smaller dining room on the other, will not win any awards for decor — mismatched hanging lamps and booth upholstery look like they might have been picked up at random — but barbecue restaurants aren't about style, anyway.
What's more important is the quality of the slow-smoked meats and the service, and Rub rates well on both scores.
Cheerful servers in T-shirts and sneakers bring the paper-topped metal trays of food to the bare tables set with six house barbecue sauces and plenty of paper napkins to accompany the fare.
There isn't a seat in the house without a good view of one of the flat-screen TVs set around both rooms and tuned to sports channels. It's a pleasantly noisy and convivial scene just a long fly ball away from Comerica Park.
Big Southern Pride smokers do most of the work. The excellent Cajun gumbo, for instance, as well as jalapeno-dotted corn muffins served in the little ramekins in which they are cooked, and the chunky coleslaw made with both red and green cabbage, are some of the well-prepared accompaniments to the smoky meats.
Most popular among the barbecue choices are the St. Louis-style ribs, neatly trimmed into easy-to-eat pieces, with just enough char around the edges from the grill on which they are finished to give them character. Because they are dry-rubbed with a spice and herb blend before cooking, they really don't need much help from the barbecue sauce assortment.
Sandwiches are served on a choice of roll or a better option, Texas toast, and several, like the beef brisket and the pulled pork or chicken, include a topping of the excellent chunky coleslaw.
Those who want to try the barbecue sauces, ranging from the spicy Detroit to the sweeter Memphis and the mustardy Carolina, can check them out by putting a dab on a piece of Texas toast.
Rub BBQ Pub is the brainchild of the Yono family — Sam, Dominic, David and Randy — who first considered opening a Mediterranean restaurant, but decided to go in a completely different direction.
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