Reuben Harley, known to most Philadelphians as “Big Rube,” is a true renaissance man. In the early 2000s, he had massive success in the world of fashion — using his marketing savvy to bring Philly’s own Mitchell & Ness into the national spotlight, dressing everyone from Mariah Carey to Jay Z in throwback jerseys. However the West Philly native always had a passion for food, and in the mid-’90s started a catering business selling fried chicken and other comfort food delights in hair salons and barbershops around the city. Today Big Rube’s passion for cooking continues with his popular pop-up events. He chatted with us about why tomatoes don’t belong on hoagies and what makes the VIP cocktail at Del Frisco’s so special.
Best late night meal?
I would say David’s Mai La Wah (1001 Race St.) — the Chinese restaurant on the corner of 10th and Race. They have salt and pepper shrimp, which I like. The food is good and it’s a nice mix of people.
Best meal under $10?
The Sampan Happy Hour. They have nice kimchi fried rice with shrimp and the Kobe sliders are good, too. Just sitting at the kitchen bar and watching the guys cook — being a chef I love seeing other chefs cook. I also love the smells. It smells so good in there with all of garlic and the onions and everything else.
Best hidden foodie gem?
Where I go get my hoagies at 13th and Moyamensing — Li’l Nick’s Deli (1311 W. Moyamensing Ave.). I get my bread gutted and turkey and cheese with, and then they put a few slices of roast beef on the top. I do everything except tomatoes, and the reason is the tomatos make my hoagie soggy. [Laughs]
Place you always recommend for out-of-towners?
I would have to say go to Toast on 12th and Spruce (1201 Spruce St.). It’s where I do my monthly chicken and waffle pop-up and they make a great omelet in the morning. I do mine with mushrooms and cheddar cheese.
Go-to date spot, hands-down?
That would be Rouge in Rittenhouse Square (205 S. 18th St). It’s right across from the park and they have the windows opened up in the summertime. They’ve got the best calamari with aioli. Mmm. On point.
Best place to catch up with friends?
Del Frisco’s Steakhouse (1426 Chestnut St.). The bartenders are very personable and it’s so big in there with the tall ceilings — because it used to be an old bank — so there’s a lot of elbow room. I love everything from the shrimp cocktail to the cheesesteak popsicles and my main drink is the VIP. It’s aged pineapple and vodka. They soak the pineapple in vodka for a whole month and then press it out.
Most Instagrammable restaurant?
Parc in Rittenhouse (227 S. 18th St.). The Caesar salad is good, the steak frites — I love those — and their whole presentation is A-OK.