The perfect Reuben?

Of all the sandwiches I have known, by far the most sublimely delicious was the Reuben at a place called the Schnelli Deli in Detroit. Sadly, it’s gone now. For those who may be familiar with Detroit, it was on the corner of Warren and Woodward Avenue, just down the street from the Detroit Institute of Arts on Woodward and Wayne State University on Warren (there was another Schnelli Deli to the north, by the Fisher building, also gone). As a college student at WSU (30 years ago :eek:) I would get a Reuben at least once a week.

This Reuben was on white rye bread, untoasted, with a heaping helping of top-quality corned beef, sauerkraut that had been well-cooked so it was on the mild (not sour) side, and Swiss cheese. But I think what really made it so good was the dressing they used. It was a Russian-style dressing I believe, dark red-orange in color, not the pale Thousand-island style dressing that is typical of seemingly every other deli I’ve visited. I asked the owner once what he used for the dressing, and he said it was a trade secret, but he got it shipped from New York.

Something about the combination of these ingredients made for a Reuben that was more than the sum of its parts, the flavors in perfect combination. I’ve been to many delis and sandwich joints since then in the years since, and have never found a Reuben that even comes close. Every other place I’ve tried, as mentioned, uses Thousand Island dressing. Some toast the bread, which is fine I guess. Many places use “fresh” right out of the package uncooked sauerkraut. I like sauerkraut- I can eat a bowl of sauerkraut by itself. And I like it extra-sour sometimes. But uncooked sauerkraut on a Reuben tends to overpower the other flavors. Some places actually put coleslaw on their Reubens. No. Coleslaw is a side dish.

I guess if there’s a question at the end of this rambling ode to the perfect Reuben, it would be: what type of sauce or dressing do they use on Reubens at a real famous deli in New York? Is it that dark red-orange style I described? I’ve never been to a real New York deli, or to New York at all actually. Here in the greater Detroit area even delis that claim to be genuine New York style use Thousand Island. Is that just a Detroit thing?

Dumb question, but have you tried asking other delis or restaurants to use Russian dressing instead of Thousand Island?

Coleslaw is usually paired with pastrami for a Rachel instead of a Reuben. I’ve never seen a Reuben with dark dressing, only a paler Russian or 1000 Island.

I’ve never seen a Reuben made with toasted bread. The sandwich is supposed to be grilled.

And cole slaw is a great ingredient on many sandwiches, but not a Reuben.

Yes, I meant grilled.

It doesn’t seem to even be available as an option.

According to the book “The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home”, a Reuben uses Russian dressing, which is a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup, worcestershire, hot sauce and pickle relish.

Blasphemy perhaps, but I prefer a pastrami Reuben to the original corned beef. And I’ll go even further - I’ve had Reubens made with smoked beef or smoked turkey and they’re pretty good. And last month I was in a BBQ place and they made a Reuben with BBQ pulled pork - which is pretty far from the original concept - and it was excellent.

I like my bread to be a darker rye. I don’t want it toasted but I like it buttered and then grilled on both sides so the outside is a little crisp.

I agree with the OP about the importance of heating the sauerkraut. I’m not familiar with the dressing he described but I’d be happy to check it out.

And the pickle chips that come on the side go into the sandwich.

I’ve had the Rueben at the Carnegie. Not half bad.

Zingerman’s deli in Ann Arbor is a pretty good source for sandwich info. They sell a Reuben kit with these instructions (Danger! Warning! PDF!). They use Russian dressing.

Coincidentally, it’s Reuben day in our cafeteria.

Okay, well that’s how you make a proper Reuben.

Toasted and microwaved can work in a pinch. That’s how I make them at work.

I like sour sauerkraut, either light or dark rye, lots of swiss, and creamy horseradish sauce for some zip. Though Russian dressing, or just some mayo and mustard will work too.

Side note - was in Germany a year and a half ago, and all the sauerkraut was sweet and mushey. I was VERY disappointed.

Goddammit, I pulled walleye out of the freezer for dinner tonight and you all are talking about delicious delicious reubens. I love a good reuben but I like pumpernickel bread. Rye is great and delicious, but the bread needs to be strong if it’s going to hang with the sauerkraut and the dressing. Crispy buttery outside, warm soft insides. I’d eat reubens every day if I wouldn’t immediately die from cardiac arrest.

That’s how the local deli makes them.

The recipes on line for Russian Dressing and Thousand Island dressing are basically identical. Mayo, ketchup, pickle relish. Things like onions, hot sauce and other seasonings seem to come and go with no clear pattern emerging about what separates Thousand Island from Russian dressings.

That sandwich is one of my favorites. I’m not a fan of kraut so this is a great alternative for me. The coleslaw and Russian topping works well with other foods as well, I’ve done it with hamburgers and turkey sandwiches.

I have eaten a few Reubens, though not lately. Even with the kraut removed some of these had some really lame Swiss on them. I wouldn’t expect much from a random diner, but I expect a deli to put decent cheese on their sandwiches.

You certainly used to be able to get this in bottled form (probably from Wish-Bone; I don’t remember). It was tomato-ey and tangy-sweet, kind of like French or Catalina dressing. I think it had poppy seeds in it as well.

This is what I was expecting when I Googled Russian dressing recipes a few years back, and they all seemed to be identical to 1000 Islands.

I’ve looked for the red Russian dressing at supermarkets in Toronto, but haven’t been able to find it. Either it never caught on in Canada, or Wish-Bone just doesn’t make it any more. I don’t know. :confused:

Wishbone had Russian dressing, but it was more, like you say, along the lines of French or Catalina, not really the standard type of Russian dressing, which is more like a thousand island. (Although looking online, it does seem like some of the Wishbone bottles are creamier looking than the very red ones I remember, although those, too, seem to still exist.)

When I was a kid, we’d buy Russian dressing but then a few years ago I asked for it at a restaurant and was looked at like I had two heads. The waiter had never heard of it.

You can make a sandwich similar to a Reuben with cole slaw instead of kraut, and it can be good, but it’s not a Reuben.