Onions that RUBbed me right.

Sietsema’s “Best Use of Onions, 2005,” award went to R.U.B. (Righteous Urban Barbecue), on 23rd St. just west of 7th Ave.  Having tried to go previously and discovered it’s closed Mondays, my girlfriend and I had occasion to try again last night.  I’m glad we did – the onions were delicious, the meat was decent, and we were both extremely satisfied.

I have high standards for fried onions.  None of the dining-hall-ish gritty prepackaged and deep fried crap will satisfy me, and I avoid ordering them except at places that I know excel.  These high standards are a combination of my mother and father’s opinions of onions, I guess – Mom loves ‘em, Dad will pick tiny bits of them out of damn near anything.

Mom’s favorite onions were available at the late, lamented Philbrick’s (of Nauset Beach, Orleans, MA).  I was regaled as a child with tales of youthful runs to Philbrick’s from the beach, and instructed as to their onions being best, while rarely being allowed to partake.  Perhaps as a result of my parents’ generation’s newfound restraint with regards to fried food, Philbrick’s closed in the late 80’s/early 90’s (I remember family member outrage, but the date is elusive and Google seems not to help).  It was replaced, physically, by a new snack shack called Liam’s, but the fryer suffered – apparently the salty sea air was not the secret ingredient.

Philbrick’s stumbled into downtown Orleans for a time, closing after a few summers; since then, my mother’s beloved onions have been unavailable.  The good news is that R.U.B.’s onion “strings” are most likely every bit as good as Philbrick’s standard – and possibly even better.  The thin-sliced onions (“string” is not a misnomer) are battered ever so delicately (I’m guessing a light flour, but I’m curious as to any other ingredients) and fried; they come out looking like a bird’s nest sans chicks, but with a reddish spice layer on top that gives a nice flavor.  You’ll be scarfing them, a bit awkwardly due to their length and shape, while they’re hot – unless you’ve got an onion fiend in the group, though, they’d be tough to finish.  The portion is huge.

I don’t want to ignore the barbecue, either.  Neither of us was particularly hungry, so we opted to share the burnt ends platter ($20), and it turns out that was prescient – between the huge serving of onions, a pint of okay yellow-ish potato salad (two sides are included with most platters), and the chunks of tender, flavorful beef brisket, we were both stuffed at the end.

Ignore the laughable and near-stale slices of white bread that are included and try the beef with and without sauce – burnt ends are legendarily the most flavorful part of brisket, and, while I’m not a barbecue expert, I thought the meat was OK.  I’m not sure I’d have been as impressed with an order of regular brisket, though – the chunks of meat that had less crispy surface area weren’t as satisfying.  As to the sauce – it isn’t fiery, but adds a nice kick, and I ended up using it on the afore-mentioned interior pieces.

Combined with a couple beers (there’s a dark ale there that I don’t recall the name of – it’s quite tasty), R.U.B. probably won’t replace the best of Texas for aficionados.  It might replace Philbrick’s for my mother, though, and I’m pretty happy about that.


Filed under NYC

3 responses to “Onions that RUBbed me right.

  1. The pulled pork and ribs are excellent at RUB. Most of the sides we tried except for greens were also tasty. I moved up to NY from Atlanta about 2 years ago and have been franticly searching for a BBQ joint that comes close to anything we had back there. RUB is about as close as you get. Of the non-standard BBQ fare, I recommed the szechuan (tea smoked?) duck.

  2. Dana Eagles

    I worked at Philbrick’s Snack Shack in the late 60’s. Jim Philbrick made addictive onion rings among other things. I am glad you have wonderful memories of Philbrick’s.

  3. jeff Philbrick

    I’m the son of James S Philbrick and it’s good to hear there are still some devoted fans of my family’s former dedication to making the world’s finest fried clams and onion rings. All five of us boys worked in the Shack. After spending 13 seasons there (8 as a fry cook) I bought the family business in 1979 when my Dad retired . I closed the operation down at the end of the 1989 season because of a dispute with the town over the lease. My family owned the building but we didn’t own the land so we operated under three year contracts with the town. At every contract negotiation the town would demand a doubling of the lease amount and by the third go round I had had enough and decided to move on.
    At that time I had been a partner in Arnold’s restaurant in Eastham for three years and continued on there for one season after closing the Snack Shack at Nauset and eventually opened Philbrick’s of Nauset Beach on Main St in Orleans very late in the season because of delays. . Four days after opening a Hurricane struck Cape Cod on Labor Day weekend and power was shut down for over a week in the downtown and our business took a huge hit from food spoilage. We struggled along for a few years but never recovered from the late start and loss from the storm. I closed shop there in October 1994 and eventually moved off Cape a couple years later.
    Your mistaken, the building at the beach is the same one I had. The original building was actually a 12 X 12 foot shack that stood on the site where the band gazebo stands now. I was only a very small boy at the time but i remember when the parking lot at Nauset was about the size of the one today at Skaket. It had to be in the late 50’s or very early 60’s when the town expanded the parking lot at Nauset to it’s present size.
    That’s when my dad decided to expand the Snack Shack too. My dad was a carpenter in the off season and had the skills to do it. He began by building a cinder block crawl space with poured cement floor basement at the location of the present building. A front end loader was brought in and a chain was wrapped around the old building and attached to the bucket of the front end loader. The old shack was then lifted by the front end loader and moved to the middle of the new foundation.
    My dad then built onto the old structure a new front (the section where the service windows are) extended the rear for a dishwashing sink, office and two bathrooms (the part of the building with the three windows to the right of the rear door as you face the building from the parking lot) and a back storage area.
    If you look at the ell portion at the rear of the present building from the parking lot the original “Snack Shack” is between the casement window on the left and the back door. At one time I had to replace the floor in the walk-in that stood in this very spot. I had to remove three sub floors to get to the stud work. The last floor was from the original part of the building that dated back probably to the 1920s or 1930s and in very poor condition and mostly dry rotted but I saved a piece of it but have since misplaced it somewhere, Oh well.
    Sorry for this long winded post but thought you might be interested in knowing the “facts” as I perceive them.

    J. Jeffrey Philbrick
    Former owner of Philbrick’s Snack Shack at Nauset Beach

    Sorry for this long winded post but I thought you might find some Philbrick history a little interesting

    J. Jeffrey Philbrick
    former owner of Philbrick’s Snack Shack

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