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Rub-N-Wood BBQ – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

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Rub-N-Wood Bar-B-Q in Rio Rancho

“Beam me up Scotty. There is no good barbecue on this planet.”
~
James T. Kirk

Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the United Starship Enterprise never actually uttered those words, but had he visited Rio Rancho between June 22nd and August 2nd, 2013, he would have found NO barbecue–good or bad–in Rio Rancho. No barbecue in the City of Barbecue…er, Vision, is akin to no Subarus in Santa Fe. Rio Rancho, after all, is home to the annual Pork & Brew, the state barbecue championship sanctioned by the prestigious Kansas City Barbecue Society. Rio Rancho has also been the home–for nearly a quarter of a century—of the legendary Smokehouse.  

When the Smokehouse shuttered its doors on June 22nd, its loyal patrons were torn between wanting to fly the flag at half-mast or flying it upside down as a sign of distress. The Smokehouse’s affable proprietor Gary West urged calm, assuaging those of us whose blood is the color of barbecue sauce with news that we would be without barbecue for only a short while. He told us a competitive barbecue team called Rub-N-Wood would be filling the void soon. Having sampled Rub-N-Wood’s ‘cue, Gary was excited that Rio Rancho would be well served.

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Interior of Rub-N-Wood Barbecue

Rub-N-Wood (no double entendre intended) opened its doors on Friday, August 2nd. Though it’s not normally a good practice for critics to visit a new restaurant until it’s had a chance to iron out any start-up problems, the intoxicating aroma of barbecue wafting through the air was too irresistible. My willpower lasted a whole day and things went so well, I returned the following day.  It will take a while, however, before the number of visits to Rub-N-Wood will equal the one-hundred plus visits I made to the Smokehouse over the years.

Rub-N-Wood is the brainchild of Roger Bell who’s been smoking meats since building his first barbecue pit in high school. He’s a veteran of Rio Rancho’s annual Pork & Brew event, consistently placing in the top 25 with an 11th place finish in chicken in the 2012. It’s not every competition barbecue team which will succeed with a storefront operation, but Roger and his family have the right attitude to make it big. They want their restaurant to be a place where friends congregate for good food, good friends and good fun.

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Smoked Chicken, Fried Corn and Bread

There are a number of cosmetic changes that differentiate Rub-N-Wood from the Smokehouse. One is a touch of modernity with a flat screen television over the counter where you place your order. The menu is replete with familiar favorites such as brisket (whole, sliced or chopped), ribs (baby back, St. Louis or spare), smoked sausage, smoked turkey (whole, legs and breast), pulled pork and some of the very best sides served at any barbecue establishment in the Duke City area.

3 August 2013: If the smoked chicken at Rub-N-Woods managed an eleventh place finish in the chicken category at the Rio Rancho Pork & Brew, the top ten must have really be something. This is an excellent smoked chicken! It’s half a bird of moist, meaty, magnificent deliciousness. Deep-penetrating smoke imbues even the interior flesh with that addictive smoked flavor. This chicken needs no amelioration, but the sauce does pair well. The sauce combines tangy and sweet elements and has a nice viscosity.

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The Bubba Platter: Three meats (pulled pork, brisket and chicken) and three sides (fried corn, okra, coleslaw)

15 August 2013: Rub-N-Wood lends credence to stereotypes of barbecue lovers being hearty eaters with the “Bubba Platter,” your choice of three meats and three sides. The Bubba Platter is the best way to sample most of what the menu has to offer. Finish a Bubba Platter for lunch, however, and you probably won’t have room for dinner. The Brisket is moist and tender, two characteristics not always ascribed to brisket, a notoriously tough dish that requires meticulous care and patience to prepare and is prone to dryness. The pulled pork is plentiful and makes for a great sandwich or by itself. 

15 August 2013: There’s only one thing better than a Bubba Platter. That’s two Bubba Platters and someone with whom to share all six meat choices. You might not want to share the smoked turkey which became my favorite of all the Smokehouse’s meaty offerings. You won’t find turkey of this caliber on most Thanksgiving tables. The Flintstonian sized pork ribs are meaty and messy, a combination barbecue aficionados don’t mind at all. The sausage has personality with a spicy flavor profile you’ll enjoy. Rub-N-Wood’s barbecue has a pronounced smokiness. It’s not wimpy smoke as too many barbecue joints offer, but an adult R-rated smoke.

Bubba Platter: Three meats (sausage, pork ribs, smoked turkey) and three sides (beans, fried corn, potato salad)

Bubba Platter: Three meats (sausage, pork ribs, smoked turkey) and three sides (beans, fried corn, potato salad)

It wouldn’t be a barbecue restaurant without sides and Rub-N-Wood has several stand-outs.  My early favorite is the beans with green chile which have notes of seductive smoke.  The green chile is a bit on the mild side, but it has a prominent roasted flavor.  Also notable is the fried corn, golden niblets of buttery corn that has been lightly fried. 

18 March 2014: On Saturday, February 8th, 2014, twenty-six of Rio Rancho’s best restaurants participated in the fourth annual Taste of Rio Rancho, a celebration of the city’s best restaurants.  Held in the Santa Ana Star Center, the Taste of Rio Rancho gave guests the opportunity to sample more than seventy-five mouth-watering dishes ranging from decadent desserts to piquant chiles, sumptuous sandwiches, prolific pizzas and much more.  The award-winning appetizer was a pork rib from Rub-N-Wood.  Appetizers were the first category judged during the event so it took great willpower on the part of the judges not to consume the entire rib (it was very tempting). A very assertive rub is applied copiously on these ribs, giving them an adult flavor not for the faint of heart.  The Flintstone-sized ribs are very meaty and tender.

Rack of Pork Ribs

Rack of Pork Ribs

21 December 2014: During the Christmas season, Rub-N-Wood added smoked tamales to its menu.  Strictly a seasonal item, the tamales are excellent, much more moist than you might imagine.  Generously engorged with seasoned pork marinated in red chile, the tamales are a godsend for New Mexicans who don’t consider it to be a true Christmas season without tamales.

Desserts include a traditional Southern favorite–cobbler. Rub-N-Wood features peach, cherry, apple or blackberry cobbler as good as it’s made in the Land of Enchantment. You know it’s good cobbler when you don’t need a scoop of ice cream on top. The blackberry cobbler is more fruit than pectin with a flaky, buttery crust you could enjoy on its own.

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Blackberry Cobbler

Rio Rancho’s skies are brighter and its citizens happier now that it’s been graced with a barbecue restaurant.  All is right with the world again in the City of Barbecue.

Rub-N-Wood BBQ
4000 Barbara Loop, S.E.
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
(505) 892-1914
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 18 March 2014
1st VISIT: 3 August 2013
# OF VISITS: 5
RATING: 19
COST: $$
BEST BET: Bubba Platter, Smoked Turkey, Sausage, Pork Ribs, Brisket Smoked Burger, Smoked Chicken, Fried Corn, Beans with Green Chile, Blackberry Cobbler, Coleslaw, Pork Ribs, Smoked Tamales


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Category: Barbecue, Rio Rancho
  • Sr Plata says:

    I am thrilled we have a replacement for the Smokehouse and in fact an excellent one! The 1/2 Chicken was LARGE, TENDER, CRISPY, MOIST, DELICIOUS, etc, must I say More…The owner passed our fried macaroni for people to try, I vote to add that, perhaps fried pickles, green beans or any other food of interest that could be smoked or fried. I wish them well but they must find, even from another state BEEF RIBS and bring that delicious smoked and meaty dish to the West Side!!! Eaten here twice and ask my friends who feast in N.M. to stop bye…

    August 10, 2013 at 8:53 AM
  • Nate D says:

    I tried out Rub-N-Wood today, and I was pleasantly surprised. The BBQ is very good, and I found it better than the Smokehouse which I thought had become vastly overrated. I had the pulled pork sandwich, with cole slaw, potato salad, and beens. Pork was great, the sauce was very good. The sides were solid, although the cole slaw needs some work. My lone complaint is the portion sizes. The sandwich, which was supposedly the larger version, was not very big. I hate to see what the small size looks like. The sides were small too. I guess I will have to order more food next time, because it is good BBQ.

    August 12, 2013 at 2:43 PM
  • Hannah says:

    Hmmm…maybe no double entendre is intended, but one can certainly be inferred! I can only hope their burnmeat is as savory as their name is unsavory! :)

    August 15, 2013 at 8:16 AM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      Hi Hannah
      I am so going to steal your idea and will open up a barbecue joint called Burnmeat. That reference went over my head until this morning when I finally got to listen to Wednesday’s Drive to Place. How’d you do on your test?
      Gil

      August 16, 2013 at 9:18 AM
  • Hannah says:

    No word on my test, yet. I’m sure I’ll talk all about it when I know :D

    August 19, 2013 at 1:13 PM
  • O-U-8-1-2 says:

    Good barbecue and excellent sides, but not worth the drive from Corrales because of the City of Vision’s clueless drivers. Should be called the City of Oblivious. As in the most oblivious drivers ever. City of Stevie Wonder Vision drivers love the fast/passing/middle lane even if they have no intent to go fast or pass other (even slower) cars. Very frustrating to get behind them when they’re going 5-10mph below speed limit on the ‘fast’ lane and slow lane is moving even slower. Rio Rancho police must have city drivers afraid to drive anywhere near speed limit. Will have to keep visiting Albuquerque for bbq fix–less frustrating drivers.

    August 19, 2013 at 3:26 PM
  • Richard from Rio Rancho says:

    Sorry, was quite disappointed. I rarely give negative reviews. First I ordered ribs and I was told I would get 1/2 lb. There were 2 ribs on the plate (not even cut to separate) I questioned this and was told .”Oh there should be another rib”. The sides were adequate but very very stingy. I could count the number of fries before I ate them. They gave another customer the wrong plate. After a bit he questioned the mistake and they tried to give it to another customer. The owner told the server you have to throw it away, which she did. If the owner was not there they would have given the plate to an unsuspecting customer after it had been sitting with another patron for a few minutes. I’ll give them another chance, but I was disappointed. They need to get their act together.

    August 26, 2013 at 4:48 PM
  • Bob of The Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Well Gosh-Darn-it or Hot-Diggity or whatever ya say, I left Rub n Wood and wanted to rush out and get me a washerboard or tambourine or kazoo xceptin I don’t know that there’s any place in town that gives lessons!
    During and after chowin down on my rib and turkey plus nice coleslaw and great potato salad, I got to enjoy not a couple of mountain geezers plucking, but I counted 10 for the regular Wednesday Night Blue Grass Jam for a couple of hours starting at 6. There’s a bass gal, a fiddler, a couple of banjos and the rest guitars. I’m gonna try the sausage next time cuz I’m more of a baby-back guy after all. I recommend you get the great sauce on-the-side so you can enjoy the smoked turkey flavorin in and of itself if ya so choose. From what I understood, if you’re into Blue Grass…and these folks are…ya can bring your strings and ask to sit in to have some fun as well. It’s a winner combo of food and music, IMHO.

    August 28, 2013 at 8:28 PM
  • Andrea says:

    No double entendre intended, my butt! Tee hee.

    September 11, 2013 at 5:15 PM
  • Bob of The Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Haven’t gone every Wednesday lest I’ve missed someone settin a spell to enjoy the dozen pluckers or twangers who are jammin Blue Grass on Wednesdays after 6! Speaking of twangers, “twang” is a good way to characterize the Zip that’s put in the BBQ Beans I had for the first time this past Wed. with the sausage!
    I suppose some of you real olde timers (Ooooeee) might want to use the term ‘plunkers’ akin to what Froggy was exhorted to do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6a3fck0NBI
    “Chow!”

    October 12, 2013 at 11:57 AM
  • Sr Plata says:

    Well, got out of the dentist in Rio Rancho and the 1st place I could think of eating that was really good and wouldn’t tarnish my teeth too much was Rub-N-Wood BarBQ. It has to have one of the best smoked 1/2 chickens I have had when you consider moistness, smoke and flavor. Being from California, both North and South, I think this BarBQ Chicken is with the Top ones I have tried. I don’t do Drumsticks but shared mine off with my workpal John B. whose comment was ‘Tasty’ along with some BarBQ Sauce, hopefully he will explore it himself as well. I still need to give notice to try the Beef Ribs, hard to plan but hope to do so soon. As I said in Facebook, would be cool to have a way to get a discount on my food as I bring a new member for BarBQ, something to consider. Oh, I really would like to see Fried Mac and Cheese as a side on the adult menu, I would be willing to compromise my saturated fats for that…Sr P

    November 11, 2013 at 1:56 PM
  • Sr Plata says:

    Richard, read your comments above. Give it another chance, I think there are a lot of growing pains they are going thru, they need to learn more how to work the restaurant and give really good food. A lot of new people learning a lot of things. Give the owner your feedback, in fact, that is my advice for all to personally express your views HERE and to the Owners F2F so they can make things better, our goal is too keep good food where you find it in Rio Ranco…

    November 11, 2013 at 2:02 PM
  • Larry McGoldrick says:

    BBQ in The Duke City is iffy: Mostly mediocre, some downright bad, and some excellent. Rub-N-Wood, which recently opened in Rio Rancho in the location where Gary West’s Smokehouse was, is now my current favorite. Worthy successor to Smokehouse.

    The pulled Pork is great — neither not too fatty nor not too dry, and it smoky flavor is just right. Get the sauce (nice combination of spicy, sweet, and vinegary) on the side. The nondescript bun gets soggy, like it should. Good slaw with raisins and apple. Dynamite cobblers. Blackberry is my choice.

    Lindsay James is the GM. She worked for Gary before he retired.
    I will write a full review on my blog in a few weeks.

    December 1, 2013 at 10:46 AM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    So glad to have gone to hear the Blue Grass jammin’ has carried over into the New Year here on Wednesday nights startin’ 6 pm!! T’were 14 Folk 2 nights ago per a bass, an harmonica, a fiddle, and guitars, mandolins, banjos and a few singing along the way!!! This time tried the Hot Links (could have been a few more slices IMHO, but)…had a great Twang with or without the sauce, which, IMHO I’d request on the side to decide your preference. Don’t know if Irish/Scottish HillBillies of our USofA would say this, but Potato Salad per (as part of) the combo plate continues as ‘Exquisite’!… dare ya to compare it to anywhere up on The Hill or down in our Valley!!! I’m listenin’!

    January 24, 2014 at 4:49 PM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Ok…admittedly, I only lived in Nashville a year and despite being 1/2 Irish, I unabashedly admit I may not be anywheres near being an expert on Blue Grass Jammin’! But if you don’t go one time and tell me your foot don’t tap while listenin’ to these 10-12 coots who show up unpaid on Wednesdays about 6 to just Jam with non-electrifed banjos, mandolins, guitars, bass, fiddle, harmonica, rattle and song aren’t worth a hoot-nor- a-holla after I’ve been listenin’ a half year, I’ll eat some gawdawful entree El Brute likes!!!…after chowing down on some smokin’ turkey, pork, hot links, beans, tata salad, slaw or etc. Geez…if nothing else!!! it’s freekin FREE great, IMHO, Classic Made-in-Ameica music!!!! Y’all come, ya heeya! PS: Caveat: I just sent a heads-up to the Rio Rancho Observer Letters-to-the-Editor advising of same!

    April 3, 2014 at 3:55 PM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Bob-a-loo,
    When you refer to “gawdawful entree el Brute likes” you refer to anything not on the children’s menu costing more than $2 served by a waitstaffer who doesn’t resemble Linda Beaver.
    Is that correct?

    April 4, 2014 at 8:32 AM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Hee ho la! Sorry (kinda) for being a bit of a….oops, a word escapes me at the moment…but I’m compelled to ‘Ring the Bell’ once again enjoining Y’all to check out…for your pure enjoyment… The Blue Grass Jammin on Wednesdays after 6.

    Admittedly as a kid, BG and its “twang” was a massive turn off, before “it”…the music of the ‘hollahs’ of TN, The Carolinas, Kentucky, The Virginies evolved into “prestigious” Country n Western of today.

    If ya have an ounce of Irish/Scottish in ya, perhaps ya can better experience listening to BG if ya let yourself “hear” strains of music from the sod as it sorta blended in with/expanded the banjo evolving from the one string instruments https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9LDis34e6g which the slaves brought with them early on.

    Say whatcha will about ‘gettin hitched’, but this is one heck of a wedding! LOL

    Oh, did I mention Y’all can enjoy a plate of vittles while listening?

    June 6, 2014 at 11:12 AM

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