When restaurateur Kevin Bedient set out to create the perfect barbeque rub, little did he know that the journey would last 18 months.
I guess it pays to be perseverant if the heavy traffic pattern of guests at his eastside steakhouse, where this dust is shaken on virtually everything on the menu, is any indication.
In preparation for my annual judging duties at the Nugget Rib Cook-Off in Sparks, Nevada, the biggest rib event of its kind that attracts more than 500,000 people every Labor Day weekend, I sat down with Bedient to get the inside shake – er, scoop – at the very place where rub reigns.
“We say ‘You can’t beat mesquite’ here, and we knew from the start that the perfect rub had to work with the earthy flavors of this wood that we use for smoking and grilling,” said Bedient, partner at the Horseshoe Grill, 7713 E. Broadway Blvd. “It took us a year and a half to come up with the right recipe, and we think we nailed it.”
He describes his rub as a balanced blend of salty, spicy, and sweet, with a little earthiness coming from ground pasilla chiles, and there’s nary a protein on the menu that isn’t dusted-up. While his ribs, brisket, and other barbeque dishes get a healthy shake, the rub finds its way onto hand-cut steaks, burgers, fries and chicken wings as well. Even the seared Ahi tuna gets a sprinkle.
Bedient crafted the recipe with his parents and restaurant partners Lisa and Ken Bedient, his sister Logan, and his executive chef Andy Romero, admitting that their “tongues were raw” after all the rub research. But given that the restaurant is currently kicking out nearly 35 pounds of rub every week, it sounds like the palate-pounding was well worth it.
Ever the creative, it didn’t take Bedient long to imagine what the rub could bring to his cocktail program as well, and the crystallizing moment came on a Cabo San Lucas beach where the Horseshoe Grill’s signature margarita was born.
As the story goes, he headed down to Cabo on a mission to create the most memorable of margaritas and found himself sitting on the beach ordering “shot after shot” of various ingredients until he got it right. The “aha” happened when he introduced some Damiana to the cocktail, a Mexican herbal liqueur, which got him thinking about that rub again.
“When I thought about the earthy tones of the rub coming together with the herbal qualities of the Damiana, I knew our rub belonged on the rim of our margarita,” he said. “We’re even rubbing the rim of our Bloody Mary now, and on Sundays we garnish our Bloody Mary with a baby back rib.”
Yes, you heard him. A pork rib hanging off the side of a cocktail. What great fortune for all humanity.
Though I tried to break him down, Bedient stopped short of sharing the entire rub recipe with me. But he did express some interest in packaging and selling the rub at the restaurant.
“We’ve seen some of our guests order the rub on the side for dishes like the mac and cheese and our soups,” he said. “I’ve also witnessed a few people sitting at the bar who ordered a little rub to enjoy with their beers, and lots of people want to take it home.”
From ribs to rims, there’s a lot of shaking going on at the Horseshoe Grill. And after my recent visit, I can tell you that the Bedient family shakes with the best of them.
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at email@example.com. Russell is also the host of “On the Menu Live” that airs 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays on KQTH 104.1 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.