Some might have thought Corktown needed another restaurant like a fish needs a bicycle, but entrepreneurs Abbey Markell and Jason Frenkel, noting that most Corktown establishments may take up to 30 minutes to serve a meal, saw a need for a place with "walk-in-walk-out service." So they opened this charcuterie and sandwich store in September, in a former barber shop, and made it easy by keeping the sandwiches cold and the service quick.
No stinting on quality, though. Though Frenkel says their store can't really be called a deli because it doesn't serve corned beef, he sources meats from the best producers he can find in San Francisco, Ontario, New York, Eastern Market, and Corktown (Porktown Sausage). His offerings include gravlax (dill-cured salmon), smoked whitefish, tuna tartare, goose liver paté, and many varieties of salumi, the generic term for Italian cold cuts like coppa (salt-cured pork collar) and bresaola (air-dried beef), as well as the better-known prosciutto and soppressata.
Visitors can sample these products of the curer's art either bulked up in sandwiches with lots of trimmings, on a crusty roll, or as part of a "board," served with pickles, spreads, and bread.
Which way to go depends on your mood. Frenkel says some second-shift downtown workers park near Rubbed and order a sandwich before work. The charcuterie board feels more appropriate for a tête-a-tête than for a business lunch; the only thing lacking, and it is noticeable, is a glass of wine.
My friend and I enjoyed the best-selling "East Sider," which piles on soppressata, capicola, pepperoni, ham, provolone, and banana peppers, and smoothes out the dueling cured-meat essences with a bacon-herb cream cheese. (Remember when Detroit's East Side used to be Italian, or at least considered Italian? It was before our time.) "Little Italy" is almost the same but with mayo. Both are enormous; be sure to have yours halved.
For the benefit of those ordering the "Meat Hater," the bacon-herb cream cheese made in-house uses artificial bacon bits, which seems a shame for the rest of us. The Meat-Hater's main ingredients are cheddar and smoked mushrooms. The other non-meat option is "Fresh 2 Death," which combines the unmatchable mouth-feel of fresh mozzarella with tomatoes, herbs, and white vinaigrette.
These are all "signature sandwiches"; others put smoked turkey with chèvre and beet slaw, or house-cured gravlax with chèvre on a bagel. Though it was generous with the capers, the latter "Fish Market" sandwich was my only disappointment, the fish too mild for my taste. I'd advise a stronger cure.
The other, less expensive way to go is to "build your own," which means choosing a $7-$9 combination. The "meat" column ranges from hummus to mortadella to roast beef; then pick a cheese or special spread. Six vegetable toppings are standard on each, including a welcome sweet sprinkling of shredded carrots, plus a choice of mustards.
I loved a warm, smoky mix of roasted eggplant and mushrooms from this side of the menu, with both mayo and a light vinaigrette.
"Signature boards" include seafood, Italian, veggie and cheese. The cheese board, for example, promises Cotswold (England), Manchego (Spain), Gorgonzola (Italy), Brie (France), honey, and jam. One night the kitchen was out of the promised whitefish, so on our seafood board we got gravlax, salmon roe (neon orange, vaguely sea-ish), flying fish roe (tiny black pearls, crunchy, smoky, salty), French feta (far creamier and saltier than Detroiters are used to), pumpernickel toast, exquisite seaweed, pickled vegetables, a dab of wasabi, and a little cup of vinegar.
Rubbed also offers a few soups and salads that change frequently: perhaps a vinegary potato salad, or a fabulous Banh Mi soup with big chunks of spicy sausage, served with a Chinese-style spoon. Drinks include San Pellegrino aranciata and Bundaberg ginger beer — just about the kickiest.
Décor is simple but fetching: bare wooden tables set with fresh flowers that are way more than perfunctory, mismatched folding chairs, floor-to-ceiling windows on the avenue. One large picture features a sloth in the role of King Kong clinging to the Empire State Building.
Starting last week, Rubbed planned to begin serving $40 five-course dinners, reservations required, with such treats as salmon ceviche and "lamb tartare+ribs." The dinner will continue monthly; look for a second edition in the first half of December.