Rubbie’s Southside Bar and Grill (Louisville, KY)

[consider this line the token “and we’ll start to write more frequently…I promise”]

According to whatever research I had done, Kentucky is famous for barbecue. Judging from the competitive grilling shows that I’ve seen (not a joke), my memory tells me that Kentucky barbecue is all about the sauce and St. Louis barbecue is all about the spice rub. I’m a sauce guy, having frequently talked people’s ears off and began awkward conversations about one’s favorite barbecue sauces until my sauce enthusiasm overtook the underwhelmed victim’s interest and desire to continue the conversation. And people wonder why I’m awkward around girls. (well, that and the fact that I have/run a website)

ribs
My class knows no bounds. Neither does my belt size.

With a GPS unit with a “barbecue” category in the “food” menu. (You tell it what kind of food you want, it tells you how to get there. Kind of like a reverse drive-thru, I guess.) We randomly picked the fourth item, “Rubbie’s.” In two hours later hindsight, I’m not sure why I, as a sauce guy, would agree to a place called “Rubbie’s,” but I guess I thought it was “Ruby’s” but spelled incorrectly.

My traveling companion gave the typical “if it looks awful, we’re going somewhere else.” I’m not familiar with Louisville at all (nor should I be, thank the FSM), so it was just a point on a map of uncertainty as far as I was concerned. Pulling up, indeed, it didn’t look too special. Rather divey, but in a quaint, people playing beanbags and poker outside of the place sort of way. I’m not picky, so it worked for me. I don’t get much out of the whole “rustic” charm thing (people who do should replace their toilets with outhouses, to make sure they’re getting the full effect of what they claim to love), but more than anything else, I didn’t want to pick yet another arbitrary place in the list of restaurants of unknown quality.

I don’t review ambiance, but in short, there wasn’t much. A food critic would include an overly colorful sentence about how “in the evening, the characterless walls and booths achieve a sense of ghostly familiarity as the drinks and conversations ebb and flow.” The menu was small, with the barbecue section tucked in a corner of the menu. There were the typical barbecue offerings: pulled pork, brisket, wings, and ribs. I picked the full rack of ribs (a whopping $12.50, which is the absolute lowest I’ve ever seen for a full rack of ribs), and my traveling partner chose the small pulled pork sandwich ($4.50). Sides selected were steak fries and onion rings, though considering my future held large quantities of meat, I laid off the fried things.

At my advanced age, I’m not prone to hyperbole, especially related to food, but (say it with me) it was truly nothing short of incredible. The meat wasn’t “fall off the bone tender,” but I have four pointy teeth for a reason. In full caveman mode, I pretty much destroyed both of the racks, using the two supplied sauces liberally. Well, actually I pretty much focused on the “normal” sauce; the “hot” was so intense that had I used of it, I would’ve had to go to a hospital and a church, and probably not in that order. The “normal” sauce was like none I’ve had before: much more molasses than I was used to, but not overwhelmingly tangy. It had bite, but no kick. They left the kicking for the bottle of “hot.”

The pulled pork was equally good (though in all honesty, I’m not a big pulled-pork fan). Perfectly tender and not at all chewy. There was some sort of smoke-aging present in both meats, but I can’t tell Mesquite from whatever else would be used for it, so I’ll just leave it at “the smoky flavor added a lot to the natural taste of the pork.”

Cheapskate or not, this is probably the most amazing part:
The total for two people was $20.13. And that includes tax. There wasn’t any alcohol on the tab (which screws up any cost comparisons), but that’s border-line ridiculous for both the amount of and quality of food presented.

And finally, the weakness of my Constitution is known all the way from here to Hong Kong, and it looks like I’ve finally found a barbecue place which doesn’t much any/much garlic in their sauce. This means that right now, my body isn’t trying to destroy itself to punish me for my foolhardiness, and that’s a first for getting barbecue at any restaurant.

*****

Rubbie’s Southside Bar and Grill gets five BIG stars. Great food, better prices, and bean bags if necessary.

Their address:
Rubbie’s Southside Bar and Grill
6905 Southside Drive
Louisville, KY 40214
502-367-0007

Also, I drove by what might be the worst house location I’ve ever seen: they’ve got amusement park screamers not far from their backyard, an airport across the street, and the “street” is an interstate. Too bad a railroad crossing isn’t in their backyard and the hog rendering plant a few blocks upwind closed last summer…

Empty Bookshelf’s First 100 Reviews


Oh, those kids. Always at it. You guys really shouldn’t’ve.

So here we are at the first of what may be a few reviews of our first milestone, 100 reviews. Not only is this the first review of this milestone, but of what could be very many milestones. We here at the Bookshelf like the word “milestone“, and don’t believe in Thesauruses. So here we go, our first hundred in a nutshell.

The first actual review happened way back in October of 2005… remember that time before the Steelers won the superbowl, before “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” movie, before Dick Cheny accidentally shot his friend while hunting, and before Bristol, United Kingdom celebrated the 200th birthday of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (actually April 9) by relighting the Clifton Suspension Bridge?

Dan’s first review was aimed at complaining about post-game hype surrounding an extremely long baseball game. Of course our readers probably care about boring Astros-Braves baseball games as much as they seemed to care about my terrible review of the dictionary. Even though that picture was good, it was nowhere near the five star quality of this image. I too tried my hand at reviewing food, but it was an utter failure. On the plus side, my review of the letter to the editor is one of my favorites, and my first review actually got eight comments, including this link. The few following that grilled chese review focused mostly on music, my opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”, a particular episode of Trading Spouses, and Dan’s opinion of My opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”. Dan also said that the Colbert report wouldn’t last, which seems to have been proven false.

October seemed to be us finding our footing.
***

November saw Dan’s Cleveland Trifecta, a diatribe against horses, a road that he liked, an episode of “Coach“, and his complaints about how much he aches, now that he’s an old man. I started the month strong with the Beth review, but struggled through the rest of it, with lame reviews like Thursday, a type of tooth”paste” that doesn’t work for me, and an insightful, yet completely unnecessary complaint about my nosebleeds. My FAO Schwarz review kinda made up for them, but the highlight of the month involved Dan and I sparring about how Christmas is coming earlier every year, and something about me being a time-traveling sheep.

November didn’t see much improvement over October, but the Christmas stuff was entertaining.
***½

December got a bit better, even with a few less reviews. I busted out the old NES games, for a few reviews that I swear are not trying to copy off of XE, another personal favorite, Christmas Cards, Adam’s first review, Dan throwing the hate down on Pitchfork media, and a suprising amount of people commenting on Roger Ebert’s take on video games. The biggest advance in December was the pop-ins, that added added some clarity to our parentheses-obsessed-writing.

December was a highly engaging and entertaining month, even with only nine reviews.
****½

2006 rolled around, and January saw Dan get political, review half of a book, not like warm winters a lot. I only contributed three of ten reviews that month, but all three of them were relatively alright, mostly because “Where In Time is Carmen Sandiego“, and “The Simpsons” after season 9 is so easy to complain about.

January’s topics fell off a little.
***½

February, while being the shortest month, was also a monster for us, as far as number goes. A whopping twenty-one reviews. To be fair, 17 of them came in our envelope-pushing live superbowl reviews, the biggest stunt pulled in the history of reviewing anything and everything on a five star scale. The only other reviews of any substance were my Gauntlet Review of the Beatles albums, and Dan’s digging up of our one-issue underground high-school newspaper.

Despite the big stunt, and two good reviews, February was kinda lacking.
**½

March just plain sucked. Four reviews total. One by me. Three megareviews by Dan.

½

April was slightly better, with another of my top five of my reviews, Legacy of the Wizard. The other four I would give an average of 3 stars to, but since there were only four during the month, that’s going to cancel out the Legacy of the Wizard bonus and take it down a half star.

**½

For my money, May was our best month yet. Dan’s contribution was the lengthy three-part TV landscape review. I threw out quality stuff with my Songs for Silverman, and Degree Navigator reviews. The shorter American Dreamz and Davinci Code video game reviews were serviceable, but my immense LOST season 2 review tops everything.

*****

June fell off a bit. Four reviews total. Split two and two. Mine were based on a ridiculous news story, and anger at other people for coincidentally coming up with the same ideas as me. Dan tried to put everything into perspective by seeing how well the entire history of human ingenuity and artistry stacked up in the interstellar community, and complained a little about how the national geography of roadways isn’t designed to suit his needs.

**

July was filled with the (I gotta admit my ignorance as to the relevance of this phrase… and wikipedia does nothing to help) Navel Gazing set. I was had for a few minutes by a Jimmy Kimmel hoax, and I thought the critics were a little too harsh on Shayamalan. Despite the mediocre numbers for the month, I’d give it a 3.5

***½

This gives us a per-month average of 3 stars, which isn’t too shabby.

In my first ever review, I reviewed the concept of this website. I claimed that we wouldn’t be able to keep it fresh, that we’d run out of ideas, and that we wouldn’t be able to stay somewhat funny at least. I believe my exact quote was “It has the potential to provide hours of entertainment for readers, and shape their lives for years to come. However, the downside is that it could get old real soon, and provide us with nothing but an excuse not to get real jobs.”

Well, I think we’ve significantly proven wrong every single point that I just brought up. We have 29 categories, 19 subcategories, and even two sub-sub categories. We’re still writing about reasonably different things, and while we may have slacked on the funny in recent months, we still bring the ‘A’ game on occasion. As far as my quote goes, I’d be willing to bet that we’ve provided maybe a few hours of entertainment for a handful of people, which probably did nothing to shape their lives for even the near fututre. On the upside, it hasn’t gotten old, and we have gotten real-ish jobs.

For all of these reasons, I’m willing to up our star rating by half a star, over the average rating of 3. I’ve also realized that my method of calculating the rating might not be the best, so I’m gonna throw in another half star for a final rating of 4 stars out of five.

****

And for those of you playing along at home, yes, this technically is the 100th review and so therefore should be included. This review receives 3 stars for not having much to offer in the way of witty musings, and for having a faulty overall rating method, but for packing so many subjects and links into one review.

***

The Cleveland ChopHouse & Brewery

This review is the second leg of the Cleveland Trifecta

There’s nothing worse than not getting what you pay for. I’m no “fine diner;” I don’t consult dining guides (Zagat’s, Mobil, or the new-as-of-today Michelin guide for New York). Some have called me a picky eater, but this isn’t “picky” due to anything other than the fact that there’s a reasonable amount of food I simply don’t like. I’m not talking about, “my god, I could never eat a cheeseburger from McDonald’s!” but a more straightforward dislike of particular foods (fish, onions, and so on). That makes me a picky eater but not a selective eater. In no way shape or form am I too good for a restaurant; I’ll eat anywhere, but though this doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed certain expectations of a particular restaurant. Especially expensive ones.

Not the best picture in the world.
The best picture I could find.

Choosing price as the index, restaurants can be broken up into five categories: fast food/convenience food (McDonald’s, Wawa), family dining (Friendly’s, Perkin’s), theme dining (Outback, Olive Garden), upscale dining (there aren’t really national examples of this… though P.F. Chang’s would count while The Cheescake Factory straddles the line between theme and upscale), and fine dining (the restaurants found in the Michelin guides). Very few people have the money to visit these “fine dining” establishments and many areas don’t even have any of these restaurants within reasonable distance. All this is to say that at each price point there are particular expectations. Every now and then a fast food restaurant offers something better than an entree at a Perkin’s-type restaurant, but that’s not expected. These positive “category jumps” are rare, and it’s found much more frequently that a restaurant in a higher category only manages to deliver the quality expected at a lower price point. The Cleveland ChopHouse & Brewery is one of these restaurants.

Looking for a nice-ish place to eat after a full-day of conventioning, I took a walk toward the “warehouse district” of downtown Cleveland (the rough geography has been previously discussed) around 9:00pm (yes, late but not a problem as most places closed at 11). Most every restaurant was in that “upscale dining” category, so wherever I’d choose, a not insignificant amount of money would be spent. Simply, The Cleveland ChopHouse & Brewery was the most eye-catching of the options.

The intentionally sparesely decorated space was dimly lit and moderately full, with a combination of the sounds of jazz music from the speakers and conversations throughout the space. I’m not picky about interiors or decor, so even though it was perfectly comfortable, it didn’t strike me as anything special, but the three (+?) shiny vats (hence the “brewery” part of the name) were eye-catching in their glassed-in section of the main room. A better than neutral experience so far, but the unfriendliness of the hostess was the beginning of the end of any meaningful positive experiences to be had. I don’t need to be pampered or coddled to, but you’d think that in the usually limited interaction (“Non-smoking please” “ok”) there wouldn’t even be room for someone to be unfriendly, but apparently I said the wrong thing. The table was perfectly fine and happened to face a TV. Water service began right away, but that was it for about 15 minutes. No servers stopped by to take a drink order for those 15 minutes until one stopped by after seeing how long I was sitting. Naturally between that order was taken and its arriving, the actual server came by to take my drink order again. Having worked at a restaurant, I know how much servers hate when customers at a table they’re not serving need to get something from the proper server, so I didn’t say anything. When the proper server came by, she was very apologetic about how long I had to wait, but in that “I’m apologizing even though it’s not my fault” sort of way, like when the food is under/over-cooked. Except, in this case, it is usually the server’s fault (more restaurant experience talking here). Oh well.

Bread service began (a small pie pan’s worth of fresh corn bread with honey butter…. rather good), but my now twice-ordered drink was still MIA. Of course once I had enough of the bread, the drink showed up. It was some sort of “Irish Stout” made in the brewery section of the facility, and I’m not beer connisseur, but it was fine, sort of like Guinness without as much of the cigarette butt taste.

At a new-to-me restaurant, no matter how expensive, I have a simple strategy for deciding what to order: pick three things from the menu, ask the server what they like, and pick one that was common with my list. This happened to be Shrimp Scampi. **A note on this selection. Some have said, “Why would you get shrimp at a steak house. You should get beef.” Well, it’s not like seafood is any cheaper at these restaurants, and they claim to specialize in “steaks, chops, and seafood.” Naturally, it took a particularly long time to get to my table, but it (and the mashed potatoes it came with) were “just finished” hot, so at least it hadn’t been sitting in a heat lamp or equivalent (restaurant experience tells you when it’s “just finished” hot or “heat amp” hot). The whole “steak house” thing usually implies slow (“relaxed” might be a better word?) service, but without making a stupid joke about them pulling the shrimp out of the lake, it took forever.

The actual entree was ok. For $26.95 I’m not looking for ok. There’s nothing bad to say about it, but nothing good to say either. It was shrimp scampi, just that simple. No particularly interesting flavors, just plain old shrimp scampi. Some say that the “atmosphere” is included in those prices, but as discussed above, it wasn’t anything special either.

*½

The Cleveland ChopHouse & Brewery receives one-and-a-half stars due to its not meeting expectations set by attempting to establish itself as an “upscale” restaurant. This is decidedly different than confusing hype and product, as restaurants create their own hype/expectations simply by deciding which price point to which they intend to cater. These expectations are as much a part of a dining experience as the food itself, especially for pricier restaurants. If a restaurant in a lower price category receive higher star ratings, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are “better.” They are simply better for the price point. Soon there will be a higher level discussion of star ratings to attempt to establish “rules.” Go Rules!