Across the street from Slow’s BBQ is Rubbed, a sandwich and charcuterie restaurant for Detroit’s hungry, a perfect foil for the apathy of places like Subway and Quiznos. Everything about the place screams character, from the unique furnishings Rubbed co-owner Abbey Markell curated from Detroit auctions and yard sales, to the ever-changing charcuterie menu and quirky house-made pickles created by co-owner Chef Jason Frenkel. Charcuterie is a branch of cooking that flavors and extends the life of meat by elevating it into an elegant pâté and mousseline or into a rustic sausage or deli cold-cut.
Their charcuterie boards range from classics like the Italian offering of soppresata, proscuitto, capicola and manchego to an unconventional veggie offering of roasted eggplant, smoked mushroom and aged sauerkraut. It is exciting knowing their seafood board includes gravlax, which is the Scandinavian portmanteau of grave (grav) and salmon (lax), because Scandinavian fishers used to ferment salmon by burying it. Rubbed employs much more modern methods. Their gravlax is cured: a whole filet is vacuum sealed with seasonings and herbs for a few days, then sliced to order.
What won’t they pickle? Lined like jewels on display are hued jars of asparagus, eggs, grapes and cabbage floating in brine. Pickled grapes? That is a first. And their kimchi-style watermelon brine? Very imaginative. Their house-made sauerkraut has been aged for a year and a half, but most of their pickles take about two months.
It is exciting reading their sandwich menu because their meat and cheese show how much the owners care about quality. Meats such as mortadella and smoked whitefish, cheeses such as fresh mozzarella and bacon-herb spread. Few sandwich shops would carry this, let alone some Detroit grocery stores. The mushrooms on the Meat Hater sandwich are packed with incredible flavor because it is seasoned and smoked and then sautéed with more seasonings. The Purple Kid was a good sandwich too. The smoked turkey was solid, the Swiss cheese and chevre were nice, but the beet slaw could have used more acidity to balance the dairy component. The delicious Italian loaf Rubbed uses for its sandwiches comes from a local Italian bakery. Besides sandwiches, try the red skin potato salad enlivened with apple-cider vinegar, red onion, garlic and dill. Be impressed with their complementary flavored water, infused with cucumber and basil.
Rubbed started as an idea in 2008, but it bloomed in spring of 2013, with their first piece of equipment, a beautiful cherry red vintage slicer, which slices so thinly that even the darkest colored meats become translucent. Abbey and Jason have lived in Detroit for over ten years and Jason received his formal culinary training from the Art Institute. Abbey has worked in the food industry just over 10 years and studied business finance at WSU. What would make two talented people, one with an intuitive eye for design, and the other with culinary skill, choose Detroit, the city that hustles harder?
In Abbey’s own words, “Detroit offered unparalleled access to property. Short of securing another partner or more financing, we wouldn’t have been able to afford to open our business anywhere but here. At least not when and how we did. Seven years ago developments were crawling just above the pace of stagnation. Living in Detroit then was a choice that meant sacrificing conveniences that most people don’t even think about. Items like nylons, cat litter and organic food were only available in the suburbs or the corner liquor store, where you’d pay more for generally inferior products with little to no variety. We’re glad to see the consumer retail market exploding in Detroit and we’re so glad to be a part of it. The context offers a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs in Detroit to work together rather than compete with each other. Since the city has not yet reached a critical mass of retail businesses, every business only stands to benefit from new businesses opening. We definitely see Detroit as having a very friendly entrepreneurial community.”
For after hours fun, Rubbed offers RAD, a monthly dinner series that will generally take place two nights a month with two seatings per night. Tickets are $40 and include a five course meal. There is a different menu every month. Look forward to a few specialty themed RAD’s like a Chinese New Years dinner series in early February. This month’s RAD is on December 11 and 12 with a menu that includes grilled quail with sweet potato puree. And on December 13, THE RUB DOWN is their official grand opening party. Tickets are $20 and include an “all-you-can-eat” selection of appetizers and a bar with a selection of beer, wine, and cocktails.
You can find the website for Rubbed here and their address is 2015 Michigan Avenue in Detroit.
All photos by Nick Hagen.