(RUB) celebrated National Brisket Day last Saturday with hundreds of pounds of smoked, saucy beef brisket ready for customers.
Because the occasion coincided with weekend, committed 10 percent of brisket sales to the USO of Illinois, which supports military personnel.
“We’re doing it to give back to our men and women in uniform,” said Shapiro, who noted that some of the U.S. Army troops based at are regular customers.
2,000 pounds of brisket
, the Highland Park native is now serving an average of 2,000 pounds of brisket each week--plus pork ribs, chicken, turkey, salmon, shrimp and a new bologna. Almost everything is smoked.
It’s not his mom’s traditional brisket recipe.
“I did a lot of consulting on the Kansas City Barbecue Society’s competition circuit to find the best smoker for what we’re doing in today’s market,” Shapiro said.
The restaurant had at least five smokers going last weekend, with meats smoking from 12-16 hours. The burning wood creates the smoke that cooks through the meat, with Shapiro opting for pellets instead of logs.
“What’s great about the pellets system is its delivery of consistent, precise flavor day in and day out," he explained. "With logs, some trees are older, some are younger, some logs are bigger and others smaller."
The beef and pork are often cooked with hickory, mesquite or oak, according to Shapiro, who sometimes uses alder wood to cook fish.
“We’ll use some of the fruit woods–apple wood, cherry wood–for our poultry items," he said.
Learning the grill
Where does a Highland Park native come up with such backwoods, Southern-style knowledge?
Shapiro, 48, swept floors and filled ketchup bottles at the original in the 1970s, just feet from where RUB is located today. Soon after that, he was running restaurants.
He worked at restaurants including Bennigan’s, Lettuce Entertain You, and Carmichael’s Chicago Steak House before he decided “it was time to do my own thing." Shapiro said that Bennigan's in Overland Park, KS, was the place "where the [barbecue] obsession started.”
Shapiro took a year off to research the barbecue circuit, enter local competitions and visit barbecue joints across the country. Photos throughout RUB chronicle his travels.
So far, the RUB owner has crafted four barbecue sauces: Standard, which has a sweet profile from ketchup, brown sugar and molasses; Texas-style, which features cumin; M-Q mustard-barbecue, which is “especially good on pork”; and Piedmont, which is a Carolina-style sauce with apple cider vinegar, red chili and sugar.
“Mom’s recipe is old-school,” he said with a wistful, nostalgic smile. “Can’t replace it, but we’ve come up with new flavor.”