As a deeply religious burger lover with an abiding faith that enlightenment can come only through the smashed sectarians, I've been essentially a sinner in my own eyes for not yet trying the RUB Burger. While I've eaten at RUB BBQ in the past, it was long before they introduced the new burger. These burgers are cooked per the smash method that I've previously described in detail (with a few differences in technique), except they have clearly taken the next step with their freshly ground beef, a special blend which includes a little bit of dry aged beef. Adding to mystique, they are served on Monday nights only, from 6-9p.m. See here for a picture of the RUB Burger as well as other famous NY smashed burgers. Besides the RUB Burger, there is a hamburger and cheeseburger, as well a new regional burger special served every week. Previous burger specials have included: the butter burger, a pimento cheeseburger, a goober burger, and a chili burger. This week, the burger was the Minnesota specialty, a "Jucy Lucy," which is a burger filled with molten hot American cheese.
It was Monday night that I finally experienced burger salvation. I hopped on a packed rush hour train down to West 23rd. While I was worried I'd have a tough time getting a seat when I arrived at 6:30, it was nearly empty except for a few random tables and some seats at the bar. When dining alone, I always prefer to eat at the bar, so I took a seat on a stool. To my left, George Motz of Hamburger America (ironically, the most recent review on his site is of the RUB goober burger), hung out with a friend and chatted with (one of) the brains behind the RUB burger, Andrew Fishel. An older man sitting to my right told me that he just wanted one Jucy Lucy as an "appetizer" before he went home to dinner for some mole enchiladas. Lucky bastard.
Clearly we were here for some burgers. Some guy sat down next to me, grabbed a quick drink and left. He was not worthy of the RUB Burger, and I secretly wished him ill.
Knowing I couldn't go with just eating the Jucy Lucy, I also ordered the RUB burger, which is a 5oz smashed burger served with Velveeta American cheese, caramelized onions, spicy mayo and pickles. Burgers such as these also require a good beer, so I ordered an Ommegang Witte draft.
I nearly finished my beer waiting for my burger, and I was getting annoyed. We all watched with a mix of awe and jealousy as the older guy got his Jucy Lucy first, tearing into it with obvious glee, melted cheese oozing everywhere. I figured Motz would most likely get his burger before me (hey that's obviously how it is, which I totally understand), and that was indeed the case. In a move which entertained me, especially in light of this article, Andrew turned up the lights over the bar to accommodate their cameras.
Then my burgers arrived and everything was forgotten. I felt bad for even getting annoyed once I spoke with Andrew, who told me that the delay was the result of the Jucy Lucy's exploding on them. Not only did the burger need to be packed tighter than normal, they had to poke holes after flipping to prevent explosive decompression. Shit, I felt like a jerk, especially once I began to think of molten hot cheese and grease exploding on the cooks' faces, melting their eyeballs like in Indiana Jones.
But with these two burgers now in front of me, I could give a crap for the multitudes of nameless and almost certainly now faceless cooks who died while making my Jucy Lucy (much like the lackeys who got their heads chopped off by an invisible swordsman while trying to get the Holy Grail for the Nazi's in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). These burgers, sitting on paper plates, were seriously no frills. The typical white bun, while not a Martin's potato roll, was perfect for this burger, especially since it had been heavily buttered and toasted. Both burgers had an amazingly charred crust.
I decided to try the RUB Burger for a baseline measurement. My first, and strongest impression was the combination of the dry aged flavor of the beef and the dark brown crust. It tasted like someone had removed the charred crust of a well-seared dry aged steak, Hannibal Lechter-style, and wrapped it around a meaty and juicy burger. It was seriously one of the best burgers I've ever tasted.
After about a minute, and with only 3 bites left of my RUB Burger, I started on the Jucy Lucy. It was served plain, so I figured it probably didn't need anything else. I took a big bite, and watched the American cheese drip out, buttery and liquefied. The crust on my Jucy Lucy was even better than on the RUB Burger, evoking the mineral depth of the seared crust of a dry aged steak.
I finished both burgers so quickly that, like a chazar, I was still craving more food. I ordered a quarter pound of burnt ends and a side of baked beans to go with my second Ommegang. After eating most of the burnt ends and all of the beans, my burps smelled like an Alabama woodshed.
I spent awhile chatting with Andrew about burger technique. I was clearly in the presence of a guy with deep knowledge of his craft. Really, I was in awe. He discussed the blend they used (but didn't give too many details), and explained why they only cook the burger on Monday nights. They cook each burger individually on a 9'' skillet, so naturally they're not prepared to do a high volume of burgers. Unlike my technique, they form patties instead of balls. (Hey whichever works, the key is to keep the patty from falling apart). After this conversation, I'm more determined than ever to buy a meat grinder start playing around with my own blends of ground beef.
I would go back just to talk burgers with Andrew again (and it doesn't hurt that I also get to eat some outstanding burgers). Honestly though, if you are a fan of the smashed burger method, you owe yourself a Monday night visit to RUB. It's a sacrament.
Update: Pictures here.
208 W. 23rd St. (nr 7th Ave)