The mythical sandwich of indeterminate origin is a favourite menu item in cafés and eateries, so we've created this ever-evolving list 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.
Weight: 505.5g Height: 10.5cm Cost: $18 Accoutrements: Pickle (half spiked, half plated), rocket and sauerkraut salad, mustard smear
We first ran our Adelaide’s Best Reuben article back in October, but we were alerted to a glaring oversight during a conversation with two expatriated New Yorkers, the Keismans, who’ve called Adelaide home for the last five years. The couple is intimately familiar with Adelaide’s hospitality scene, and it was with great incredulity they announced we’d missed Adelaide’s absolute best reuben, at Delicatessen.
This half-kilo sandwich is a monster.
The rye is lightly toasted, still with crunch, and the use of rocket is a Delicatessen idiosyncrasy. The house-treated salt beef is nearly an inch thick (ask for a steak knife) and the house-made Russian dressing is used sparingly. Where some sandwiches in this list drip mayonnaise grease down your forearm, the Delicatessen reuben is a tidier rendition.
A Dutch version of Swiss cheese coats the sauerkraut (also house made) and melts to the base of the sandwich. A small piece of structural cheddar is also employed between the rye and the salt beef.
The kraut is good, but not mind-blowing, and so all-in-all this reuben is Gestaltian in its balance. Nothing competes too much for your attention, and everything works together to achieve an optimal experience.
To Jeremy and Maritza Keisman – we thank you for the tip.
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: 266.8g Height: 3cm (6cm stacked) Cost: $12.00 Accoutrements: None
We spied the Reuben in the refrigerated cabinet the first time we visited Comida. It’s this Reuben that inspired our first “evolving” guide and we’re proud to publish Brad Sappenberghs’ take on the classic here.
Brined for five days, Brad treats his brisket tenderly and with all the spice you’d expect. Once the brining stage is over, Brad says he, “smokes the beef hard for half-an-hour,” before taking the chips out of the smoker and roasting it low and slow for the remainder of the day. This Reuben keeps it classic with mustard, swiss cheese and pickles only and is put through the sandwich press to serve, toasted. Nothing overly photogenic about the set up here, but was tantalising enough that the photographer forgot to take its picture before taking a bite out of the thing (bottom left corner).
Bright zing and fresh crunch from the mustard and pickle combo accentuate the deep, smoky flavour of perfectly house-smoked brisket. A great sandwich.
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.
One from the vaults: the CityMag x Lucia’s one-day-only reuben
CityMag x Lucia’s
Weight: 290.5g Height: 6cm Cost: $13 Accoutrements: Sauerkraut and horseradish salad
Created for Magazine Gallery by chef and photographer (co-founder of Sunny’s Pizza) Andy Nowell, this reuben is a classically Australian take on the sandwich made famous by the Kosher-style deli in New York City. What do we mean by ‘classically Australian?’ Well, we mean fresh and bright flavours, less meat and more cheese.
Where the Katz Deli Reuben focuses on thick slabs of beef, the CityMag reuben treats the sauerkraut as the hero – fleshing out the pickled cabbage with diced dill pickles, horseradish, mayo, mustard, pepper and parsley.
Instead of the deep and smoky wad of meat that many reubens put in your mouth, this sandwich hits your tastebuds with a crunchy, sweet and sour salad that offsets the deep, oily and delicious hot beef and melted cheese on top.
CityMag’s list of Adelaide’s Best Reubens will be continually updated.
If we missed your favourite CBD reuben, let us know: email@example.com