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Texas Hold ’Em

November 2, 2010

It is not often that I’m conflicted.  Generally, I can go into a restaurant, examine the menu, eat some food, take a look around, and walk out with a distinct impression of the place.  Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not, but despite not having tried everything on the menu, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it pegged.

But today I am flummoxed.

There is a new barbecue joint in Schenectady.  Actually, calling it new wouldn’t be entirely accurate.  The place has existed for years outside Schenectady in a town called Cobleskill.  The name of the establishment is Rubbin’ Butts BBQ.

Anyhow, let me tell you a story about my first trip to their newest location, and perhaps you can tell me what you think.  In my heart of hearts I know I have to go back, but I may need a little encouragement.  It has something to do with Texas and nothing to do with poker.

I was worried from the start.  Where was the smoker, where was the smoke?  And I continued to worry when I looked at the menu and couldn’t find some kind of clear regional bias.  There was Carolina pulled pork but also Texas brisket.  No matter, Capital Q mixes regional styles and they do it quite well, so I figured I would solicit the input of the big man who was taking orders.

Incidentally, it has been so long since I’ve tried out a new BBQ joint that I forgot completely about my classic strategy for determining its worth: the three-way combo.  Even then, some judgment is required to determine which three meats are most worthy.  Ribs, brisket and chicken cover three different animals and three distinctly different BBQ challenges. There is also the cardiologist special that replaces heart-healthy chicken with the often more delicious links.  Or you could even get a pork three-way of ribs, links and pulled, which displays a pit’s versatility with the pig.

Anyhow, I wasn’t nearly that hungry, and I was directed as a first-timer to try either the Texas brisket or the Texas pulled pork.


I’m not going to claim to be an expert on Texas BBQ, but I do know that while Texans may enjoy a pork rib every now and again, their BBQ is all about the beef.

It struck me as odd that a place called Rubbin’ Butts that proudly features a swine in its logo would put two Texas style dishes up as a must try for first timers.  But if they were going to steer me to Texas, I was going to get the brisket.

Wow.  All things considered, that was surprisingly good: rich, well rendered fat, beautiful smoke ring, tender, juicy, and with a darkened crusty exterior.  Plus it was not drenched in a sticky sweet sauce.  I was left with that wonderful lingering smokiness on my hands and in the back of my mouth as a lovely reminder of their delicious brisket.

But where did it come from?  I didn’t see or smell anyone smoking in or around the restaurant.  I’ll need to confirm to be sure, but my guess is that the food is made in Cobleskill and driven to Schenectady.  After all, it’s only 40 minutes away, and BBQ can hold pretty well.

It could also explain all the microwave ovens.

I do not like microwaves, nor do I trust restaurants that have them in their kitchens.  My quick peek into the kitchen seemed to reveal three of them.  It appeared as if the woman who ordered the BBQ chicken had her chicken nuked before it was served.  This did not seem to be the case for the brisket.  But it just makes me wonder which things are held hot, and which are held cold.

So while I had a delicious serving of meat, I am not confident enough to give it my thumbs up.  Nor am I terribly excited to go back and try some of their other possibly microwaved meats for the sake of science.  And honestly I have to mention I’m just a little bit peeved that they refused me a cup of tap water.  I’m okay with brusque, but demanding that I have to buy bullshit bottled water if I want to hydrate is just obnoxious.

Still, good BBQ brisket is worth a few indignities.  And it does leave me wondering if perhaps they are good at making anything else.  I’ll have to go back, and be brave.  Disappointment lurks at every turn.  But perhaps a few probing questions married to my own gut instincts can help separate the good from the microwaved.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. llcwine permalink
    November 2, 2010 10:26 am

    My husband went last week. He’s from North Carolina and prefers Lexington style over the Eastern Carolina style (and don’t try to get him anywhere near South Carolina style with mustard in the sauce). That being said, he loved the pulled pork and said it was great and the slaw the best he’s had other than in NC. Apparently, the owner is from Raleigh and his wife is from Texas, thus the marriage of the two barbecue regions. My husband also liked the cornbread as it wasn’t too sweet as it tends to be up here in the Northeast. All in all, he cannot wait to return. He didn’t notice the microwaves, but then again, he probably wasn’t looking as closely as the Profussor. All I can say is, he and his family take ‘que seriously….very seriously and he liked Rubbin Butts.

  2. Phairhead permalink
    November 2, 2010 10:30 am

    Wait, I’m confused is the BBQ joint in Sch’dy or Cobleskill? By the by, Cobleskill is not part of Sch’dy county, it’s Schoharie county

  3. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    November 2, 2010 10:46 am

    Another new place: Memphis Smoke House at Mr. Ed’s, a little east of Saratoga on Rt 29. He’ smokes on premises. I like it.

  4. November 2, 2010 9:20 pm

    BBQ is a brave and durable commodity. Once it is properly prepared it can be refrigerated or frozen, then reheated/nuked without loss in quality. I would not worry about a BBQ place having a microwave. As long as they treat the meat with respect when preserving/reheating it, it should be fine. It’s not realistic to expect a local good barbecue place to always serve up fresh fare for the 6-7 people who would appreciate it.

  5. Katerbirch permalink
    November 3, 2010 4:41 pm

    I live in Cobleskill, the original home of Rubbin’ Butts, and even going by the restaurant where the smoker is visible from the road, you don’t see the smoke pouring out. The owner was telling my better half about the thing he created (I’ll admit I stopped listening because it sounded like man-talk), but it seemed like he developed a system that didn’t overwhelm the surrounding area with the barbecue-y smell. I will say that in the Cobleskill branch the man loads up your plate and you get a ton of food for your money. My mister and I were there and both ordered the pulled pork plates, while we were chowing down, he brought out a few ribs for us to try and some coleslaw. I liked the ribs, but enjoy the pulled pork with sweet potatoes so much more. So far we’ve had good luck at the Cobleskill spot, though we’ve yet to check out the new one in Schenectady.

  6. llcwine permalink
    November 5, 2010 1:45 pm

    Husband went back last night and brought me home some take out. Brisket was phenomenal as was the pulled pork and the collards. The corn muffin was a tad sweet for me. Folks from work are going there for lunch today.

  7. Ripper permalink
    November 19, 2010 4:18 pm

    been to Cobleskill a couple times the Brisket is awsome the pulled pork is good, but the ribs and chicken need some help. The sides are mostly premade and frozen from sysco, but i stick with the Brisket when i go.

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