If you’re expecting that down-home Texas BBQ staple whose stage has been baptized by the likes of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, turn away now. Stubb’s Shanghai has little in common with the flagship store in Texas besides the name. But if you want edible BBQ and a pint served by the friendliest/hottest staff in the city, head on down.
So American it can’t be in America. Polished wood floors, brick everywhere, a stage for country cover bands, neon signs, the Wonder Girls and the Allman Brothers on a loop, and decorative antlers so well varnished you can see your reflection in them. Once in a while the servers line dance. It looks less like a rustic American BBQ dive and more like a Macau casino’s interpretation of a rustic American BBQ dive.
The waitstaff is a handpicked troupe of attractive women from all over China with immaculate eyelashes, Listerine-commercial smiles, sparkling uniforms, the whole nine yards. As with the decor, they seem a bit too spiffy for a country BBQ joint, like ice skaters dressed as BBQ servers, but I’m not complaining.
And their service is bar none. They swarmed us with greetings when we arrived, immediately made sure we got menus and a waitress, and asked how our meal was right as our last rib bone stopped wobbling on the plate. Don’t let the ant-like efficiency put you off though boys, there’s plenty of room for informal, giggly bar chat as well. Think your high school cheerleaders if they were actually good at pretending they liked you.
A fairly standard entourage of chicken (58RMB for 1/4), pork ribs (138RMB), beef brisket (158RMB) all smoked on an imported J&R smoker over Northern Chinese applewood. You can get a sampler combo with either chicken and pork shoulder, or beef brisket and pork shoulder, or you can mix and match from brisket, pork shoulder, pork ribs and chicken. Starters and salads set you back 28RMB and 78RMB, steaks are 188RMB for the sirloin, 268RMB for the ribeye. The one American stereotype Stubb’s got right is the portion size, which is absolutely Jurassic.
The brisket’s your best bet; smokey, shredd-y, glistening, and intersected by a white ribbon of fat. The ribs, on the other hand, tasted dehydrated and weren’t as embossed with fat as we would have liked. A few squirts of Stubb’s signature spicy-tangy BBQ sauce moistens them up a bit.
Staunch BBQ traditionalists will want to stick with Bubba’s. Stubb’s is for those who want to experience American stereotypes on steroids and the most expeditious and amiable waitstaff in Shanghai – no mean feat in a town where Western-friendly service means not having to get up and tap your fuwuyuan on the shoulder when you want service. The brisket’s a catch too.
Stubb’s BBQ – 550 Jianguo Xi Lu, near Wulumuqi Nan Lu, Xuhui district (徐汇区建国西路550号, 近乌鲁木齐南路). Tel: (0)21-5459-1202. Hours: 4pm-midnight daily.
See a complete list of our reviews here.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].