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I dont really understand the catalyst for the bbq craze that seems to have swept the city in the past year. Not that I'm complaining, but I'm certainly neither bbq addict nor aficionado (duh, Ive eaten a Dallas BBQ by choice). I cant discern which wood is being used, or tell how the meat has been smoked by the color of the flesh, or speak at length on regional styles. But I do like barbecued meat, particularly anything porcine.

I had a Friday night urge and wanted to try someplace I'd never been. Smoked, in the East Village, seemed small-portion, big-prices off putting. RUB rankled me slightly with the Righteous Urban Barbecue acronym, but it has the Paul Kirk pedigree, which is more than many of the newcomers have to offer.

The Chelsea space is pretty bare bones, though hardly as no-frills as what youd find down south. I should've been trying the pork ribs, but they come solo, just ribs, and I like variety. While I do like barbecue, its not the sort of food that Ill eat till I'm breathless (like Thai food). I'd prefer lots of smaller tastes over one big entrée, so I tried a barbecue sampler where you can choose different meats and sides. I went for two and two and picked pulled pork, beef brisket, mixed greens (collards, mustard and kale) and baked beans, which were full of salty pork chunks. I liked the pulled pork best, beef brisket second and house made pastrami (that James ordered) third, but thats primarily because pastrami isnt one of my favorites in the first place. I prefer corned beef, even though I'm not sure what the difference is. It's definitely fattier.

In addition to the pastrami, other atypical offerings included szechuan smoked duck, which Ive heard is quite good, and deep fried ribs. Both are items I'd consider upon a second visit. You dont want to go wild on a maiden restaurant voyage, its best to assess standards first.

RUB * 208 23rd St., New York, NY

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