The mythical sandwich of indeterminate origin is a favourite menu item in cafés and eateries, so we decided to round up the City of Adelaide's best takes on the righteous reuben.
Adelaide’s best reuben
The reuben is a sandwich for sandwich lovers.
While you can slap just about anything between two slices of Wonder White and call it a sandwich, the reuben is a very specific collection of condiments and smallgoods.
The most famous reuben comes from Katz’s in New York, but its history is hotly contested; a mash of Irish and Jewish influences (despite not being kosher) coalescing in either New York or Nebraska (depending on who’s telling the story), and reaching back to the first half of the 20th century.
Just as heated is the debate over which are the ingredients most critical to the sandwich: grilled dark rye or perhaps a lighter bread, sauerkraut or coleslaw, Russian dressing or 1000 island, corned beef or pastrami.
There are as many opinions and iterations as there are tastebuds on the human tongue, and all that seems to remain consistent is the layer of swiss cheese – though in our pursuit of Adelaide’s best reuben we’ve managed to find at least one defector there, too.
Over the course of a couple of weeks, CityMag has scoured the CBD and North Adelaide in pursuit of its best take on the mythical reuben, and we’ve listed our findings below.
Note: All the sandwiches below are the city’s best and have been listed in descending order by weight.
The Flying Fig
Weight: 474.4g Height: 8cm Cost: $22 Accoutrements: None ($4 for pickles or chips)
The Flying Fig takes reuben sandwiches very seriously, to the degree that they’ve got three variations on their menu (plus a fourth on the specials board on the day we visited). There is a rendition for vegetarians, with grilled capsicum and zucchini and chrain (a beetroot and horseradish relish); a weekends-only version made with house-made pastrami, smoked for eight hours, steamed for two, and only available after 10:30am; or the original, which we’ve featured, available every day, and stacked with a lot of corned beef and a lot of house-made sauerkraut.
The grilled bread is a dark rye from Skala, which brings a sweetness to the sandwich, and the ‘kraut – made from kohlrabi, cabbage and caraway – also features whole peppercorns, giving it some bite. The Flying Fig falls on the Russian dressing side of the reuben sauce debate.
This is a big sandwich, so come hungry or with a friend.
Weight: 442.8g Height: 3cm (6cm stacked) Cost: $17 Accoutrements: Kettle crisps (plain), a large half pickle (spiked)
Making the most of the Jewish New Yorker connotations in their name, BRKLYN brings a very straight-down-the-line standard reuben, with Mainland swiss cheese, Challenger Smallgoods pastrami, Sandhurst sauerkraut, Market Street white rye, a house-made secret sauce (that the floor staff told us is probably based on a Russian dressing), served with crisps and a big, crispy half pickle.
From the first bite you’ll notice an excess of sauce, which is expertly contained within the grilled bread. This is not a bad thing. Enjoy your juicy reuben.
Weight: 424.8g Height: 10cm Cost: $13.90 Accoutrements: Hot chips
The team at The Exeter are a generous bunch, not only is the cost-to-weight ratio pretty favourable, but it comes with a serve of hot chips (not included in the weight measurement, obviously). The Ex’s reuben was a great experience, but this writer did not eat for a good 18 hours afterward. If you love a reuben, are quite partial to crispy, golden hot chips, and love the feeling of being full to the point of bursting, this is the lunch stop you’ve been looking for.
The sandwich started at The Exeter as a special – a seasonal replacement for the kitchen’s pie in September last year – but recently graduated onto the full-time menu. This version features house made Russian dressing, house-made sauerkraut (made with fennel), house-cooked corned beef, and a light rye from Skala.
Every bite comes with an audible crunch, which is deeply satisfying in a way totally external to the flavour experience of the sandwich.
Where We Met
Weight: 381.2g Height: 4cm (8cm stacked, 11cm stacked plus pickle) Cost: $18.50 Accoutrements: Big pickle (spiked)
This South Terrace café offers another saucy version of the reuben, though not overly juicy, such as in the BRKLYN iteration above. The Russian dressing is house made, the pastrami comes from Balhannah Butchers, the ‘kraut is made from red cabbage, and the Mylar light sourdough is grilled in Paris Creek butter, creating a satisfying crunch that is also, counterintuitively, easy to tear through.
Because the Russian dressing is thicker in texture, drips aren’t such a worry, and the mix of red cabbage ‘kraut and house-made dressing creates a more complex flavour profile than most of the reubens we sampled.
This is one for the flavour-chasers.
Weight: 230.6g Height: 5.5cm Cost: $12 Accoutrements: Half pickle
The one swiss cheese defector! Monday’s has a pretty unique take on the reuben, and, to be fair, they call it a pastrami bagel – but we saw it as a riff on the theme, and a good one at that, and so here we are.
The Monday’s ‘reuben’ has sour tartness from the house-made pickles and American-style mustard, and the cream cheese does not detract from the pastrami at its core.
Weight: 215.8g Height: 4cm (8cm stacked) Cost: $9.50 Accoutrements: Takeaway packaging
For the reuben-lover on the go, Hello Sarnie has a takeaway take on the sandwich, which is available as either toasted or fresh (we had the untoasted version, for something different).
The dark rye, pastrami and sauerkraut are all standard reuben ingredients, but where Hello Sarnie breaks is in its choice of mayonnaise instead of Russian dressing, and the introduction of spinach leaves. A reuben recipe is truly a world of possibility.
Abbots & Kinney
Weight: 137.5g Height: 5.5cm Cost: $7.50 Accoutrements: Small pickle (spiked)
Yet another ‘inspired by’ rendition we’ve decided to claim as a reuben, the Pastrami Winehouse comes in as the lightest in the list (it’s a pastry after all), but it certainly does not lack heft. There’s a generous stack of pastrami within that makes for a satisfying chomp, the sauerkraut packs a mustardy punch, and there are more small pickles like the one spiked on top inside for a crunchy surprise.
You can have the pastry cold or heated up, and eat-in with cutlery or on the go. With all the ingredients safely tucked inside, it’s a convenient mobile lunch. The same cannot be said for most of these sandwiches listed above.
Abbots & Kinney’s Pastrami Winehouse is only available Fridays, is on the menu as demand dictates, and is not available at all stores, so check ahead before setting your heart on this reuben riff.