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The Best Reuben Sandwich in California...

 

The best Reuben Sandwich in California is the one I make for myself. That said, I constantly search in restaurants for a better tasting one. There are many variations, and several discrepancies as to who created the original Reuben. Some say it was a guy in Omaha named Reuben Kulakofsky back in the 1920's. Another story credits New York deli owner Arnold Reuben back in 1914. While yet another version give kudos to an actress visiting his delicatessen and coming up with the idea.  Like so many legends, we will never know for certain who invented the Reuben Sandwich. But it has grown to become a popular menu item at many restaurants and is my favorite sandwich in the entire world.
 

For those who don't know what a Reuben Sandwich is, it starts with a good rye bread toasted on a grill with authentic melted slices of quality swiss cheese, heaps of thinly sliced corned beef (you can substitute other meats or leave the meat off as variations), and a sauerkraut that's not too crunchy, is well-drained, and preferably thinly textured rather than the extra crisp variety. The final touch is Thousand Island dressing inside the sandwich after it has been cooked. That balances the tangy kraut with a sweet taste. In one meal you are getting sweet, salt and sour. A nice kosher dill pickle is the best side to this dish as this type of dill tends to be less salty. 

 

I have eaten out and have been in search of the perfect Reuben since I tasted my first at a deli that used to be in Orange County but is long gone. Some home-town restaurants whip out pretty good versions and many disappoint.

One of my favorite places for a localized recipe is Jack's in Old Orcutt - Santa Maria, on the Central Coast. The bread is a bit weak on the rye flavor, but overall, it's been a reliable menu selection. The sandwiches in this restaurant are hearty, the ingredients and preparation fresh, and the atmosphere is very Central Coast comfortable.
 

Los Angeles has a fair share of restaurants and delis serving the sandwich that will suit most discriminating tastebuds. One of the top delis in California, winner of James Beard Award, is Langer's Delicatessen & Restaurant. There is no sandwich on the menu called "Reuben" but there are many options such as #88 - HOT CORNED BEEF, Sauerkraut and Swiss Cheese Grilled on Rye, cost: $13.50, is your basic Reuben. With an incredible selection of pastrami sandwiches, this is a must-try on your visit to L.A. Location: 704 S Alvarado St, Los Angeles, C.A. 90057. Call: (213) 483-8050. langersdeli.com.

 

In Costa Mesa near South Coast Plaza and the Orange County Performing Arts Center is Jerry's Famous Deli, one of a chain of delicatessens with an actual Reuben Sandwich listed Bold Face on the menu. I've tried their Reuben and thought it was pretty expensive. With your choice of pastrami or corned beef, there's a Super Reuben where you can order both meats.  Direct from the menu:

 

REUBENS
Topped with Swiss Cheese and Sauerkraut
Halfers / Regular
The Reuben 11.95 /  15.65
Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss
Cheese on Grilled Rye Bread
Pastrami Reuben 12.55  / 16.65
Super Reuben 12.75   / 16.95
 

If you're longing for pastrami,  Nate 'n Al in Beverly Hills, serves top quality sandwiches in a deli that's a refreshing step back in time as you exit the sun-soaked streets of BH and feel the essence of a real cultural icon. Pastrami is served with coleslaw, and swiss cheese is considered an extra. For those seeking a Reuben, you're not going to meet expecations on this count, though you'll have a great sandwich.  Nate ‘n Al has been owned and operated by the Mendelson family since 1945. Al, a Russianborn Canadian, immigrated to Detroit in 1923. Soon after moving to Los Angeles in 1945, he opened Nate ‘n Al with partner Nate Reimer, whom he eventually bought out.  Nate 'n Al, 414 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Call: (310) 274-0485. natenal.com
 

The Busy Bee Cafe in downtown Ventura, with its soda fountain, red vinyl booths, black & white checkered floor, and jukebox music you can choose, serves a darned good corned beef or hot pastrami sandwich. When I visited, there was no sauerkraut on the menu, but the owner was there and accommodated me with some they had in the kitchen to make the Reuben I desired. The price is quite reasonable, cafe comfortable, and you should go just for the atmosphere alone.  The Busy Bee Cafe, 478 E. Main (805) 643-4864. busybeecafe.biz

 

There have been many Reuben failures that I've tried in California. I usually end up filing a mental note, and should I ever return to these restaurants, that note pops up. I've tried versions of Reubens at popular chains...Mimi's once served a unique version which was tasty, but not my cup of kraut. They actually placed slaw on the sandwich and used this form of cabbage (sauerkraut is also made of cabbage) as part of the texture.

 

The worst of recent Reuben renditions has been a sandwich at Arby's that is made of a marbelized swirls of thick slicked brown and white bread that's slightly sweet, Arby's thin sliced meat composite, and a sprinkling of sauerkraut with gobs of Thousand Island smeared all over the sandwich. One bite and you quickly determine you're getting tons of calories, and not much in the way of an authentic Reuben.

 

 


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