Offbeat little restaurants are very much in favor these days. Rubbed, tucked into a squat building on Michigan Avenue, its brick façade painted a vivid green, is the latest to join the list of artfully casual holes-in-the-wall with culinary ambitions.
Open just about a month now, its premise is sandwiches, all on Italian sub rolls, and charcuterie (meat and cheese boards) served in the one-room space with an open kitchen behind the counter where patrons order.
Rubbed — it's named for the rubbing of salt into meat in the curing process — is the brainchild of Abbey Markell and Jason Frenkel, both veterans of the restaurant scene here and elsewhere. Wisely, they've kept the menu focused, offering a list of made-to-order sandwiches and charcuterie assortments presented on hardwood boards, using as many local ingredients and products as possible. The Eastern Market is their main purveyor, they say, although they do make exceptions. Zapp's New Orleans kettle style spicy potato chips, for instance, which I suspect were chosen for their colorful bags.
The setting, done up in flea market finds and the works of local photographers, is just right for its Corktown neighborhood. Bare tables are set with old-fashioned garden flowers in jars and a scattering of plastic toys.
Patrons order at the counter, and sandwiches come wrapped in glossy white butchers' paper whether they are for carry-out or not, along with plastic ware and lots of paper napkins. Signature sandwiches include the Little Italy, combining capicola, mortadella, pepperoni and provolone cheese, and the Purple Kid, smoked turkey, chevre spread, a touch of Swiss cheese and beet slaw, but patrons may put together their own combinations or just stick to one particular meat from a long list.
The meat and cheese boards include charcuterie — typified by the Italian, prosciutto, soppressata, capicola and cheese, and the Fish Market, gravlax (salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill), served with chevre cream cheese, pickled onions, along with pickles, rounds of rye bread and other savory embellishments. Aside from just a couple of sides, beet and radicchio slaw and redskin potato salad, that's it.
Soft drinks are the only beverages currently, and they are well-chosen, but the proprietors hope to acquire a liquor license at some point.
Rubbed (not to be confused with Rub BBQ Pub) is a work in progress. But in the early going, it adds a promising element to the options in Corktown.
This Friday and Saturday the spot is hosting the first of what is planned to be an occasional multicourse dinner, called Rubbed After Dark, with seatings at 6 and 9 p.m. Advance tickets, at $40, are required.
2015 Michigan Ave., Detroit
Call: (313) 265-3684
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Prices: Sandwiches $7-$12, charcuterie boards $12-$25 for two or more, sides $2-$3.50.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: No, soft drinks only
Noise level: Moderate