Story & Photos By Asa Gilmore
The Reuben sandwich is the best sandwich in the world, and never in a million years have I been accused of hyperbole. It is basic in design and complex in execution. At the core, things are simple. Rye bread. Corned beef. Swiss cheese. Dressing. Kraut. But each of those ingredients has subtleties apparent only to the true devotee. Corned beef? Pastrami?* Thick sliced? Thin sliced? Dark rye? Light rye? Marbled rye? Dressing? What type of sauerkraut? Red cabbage? Green cabbage? Spices?
Making the perfect Reuben is akin to conducting an orchestra. The details of each ingredient become increasingly noticeable as the composition builds to a crescendo and ends up hot to the touch, and the lingering notes of the finale echo the taste of glory.
Have I mentioned that I like Reuben sandwiches?
The Reuben has varying legends of origin, but we can agree that the tradition began in the early 1900s and that the recipe has stayed the same since. I will note that in this arena, I am a hardcore traditionalist, and my one concession to the changing of times is permitting pastrami to be considered as an ingredient.
Going beyond the basic qualifications, I divide true Reubens into three categories: delis, bars, and casino coffee shops. I have grown to appreciate each one at different times in my life and at different times of the day and night!
The deli Reuben, on which this article focuses, is characterized by a fresh flavor — lightly grilled bread, fresh kraut, a custom dressing, and a certain light finesse of presentation. The bar Reuben is a bit more reliant on the grill for flavor, a bit less reliant on the fresh dressing and kraut, but still a gourmet contender. The casino is the realm of such beautiful theatrics as the Manhattan Deli’s giant Reuben and the Peppermill’s triple decker Reuben.
For the purposes of this article, I will consider my favorite deli Reubens in the Reno area. Among these are three clear contenders: Dish Café & Catering, Michael’s Deli, and Yosh’s Unique Deli.
Let’s start with Dish.
Long ago, when I first was falling in love with the Reuben, Dish’s was one of the first deli Reubens that really impressed me. A decade later, I still think it’s among the best in town. On the menu, it’s called Megan’s Reuben, and I have always wondered who Megan was. Co-owner Joe Horn filled me in on the history.
“Megan was one of our first chefs when we started the business 15 years ago. We knew we wanted a Reuben, but our whole thing was never do what everyone else does, you know? So let’s not do a thousand island dressing, let’s do something different. She always had a lot of Asian influence in her cooking, and she used Sambal Oelek in her sauce, and that’s what changes it up a little bit.”
Mystery solved. I had always wondered what made Dish’s Russian dressing unique, and the subtle addition of garlic chili pepper paste provides that kick that keeps me coming back for more.
Megan’s Reuben at Dish Café & Catering
It’s truly a beautiful sandwich. The presentation is unequaled, with a gourmet green salad as a side providing a fresh balance to the main dish. And the sandwich itself is unique among Reubens, as most are grilled. Dish features only a small kitchen and does not have a griddle. Instead, cooks assemble the sandwiches open faced, and after some time in the oven, transfer them to a panini press. The result is something that can compete with any grilled sandwich, with a light bread flavor, crisp exterior, and a perfect melding of the interior ingredients.
Next, let’s visit Michael’s Deli.
The Michael’s Deli Reuben
It’s on South Virginia Street and is a bustling place with a friendly atmosphere and sports memorabilia lining the walls. Like Dish, it’s been in business for 15 years and is family owned. Michael’s Reuben is classic in every way: marbled rye, dressing made in house, fresh kraut, and a liberal helping of meat. The presentation is simple but satisfying — a gorgeous sandwich that fills the plate. You’ll also have the choice between corned beef and pastrami, so you can choose the traditional way (corned beef) or with the extra smoked flavor of pastrami.
And, finally, there’s Yosh’s Unique Deli.
Though its current location on Foothill Road in South Reno feels newer, this family business has been around for a long time. Josh Codding, the current owner, told me how his grandfather, Joe Castillo, started the original deli 20 years ago. Codding has been involved for six years and has built it into what it is today. Yosh’s has a wide range of menu options and is known for its smoked-in-house tri-tip and pork — and, of course, its Reuben. It’s perfectly grilled with a thick layer of pastrami chunks on marble rye with Yosh’s own dressing. Yosh’s gives you the option to order half a sandwich, but I personally could never be satisfied with half of such a good thing.
The Yosh's Unique Deli Reuben
If you’ve never had a Reuben before, any of the above delis is a great choice for that life-changing experience. For my fellow Reuben fanatics, if you haven’t tried all three of these, I would strongly advise that you do. I find it interesting that all of these classic delis have been in operation for 15 or more years. Reno’s current reputation as a food destination is well deserved, and these businesses are a big part of what began that trend.
The Reuben is the best sandwich in the world. Try any of those mentioned in this article and you’ll agree.
*For my fellow Reuben fanatics: Yes, I realize that a Reuben with pastrami is technically a Rachel. However, for the purposes, of this article I will refer to the sandwich as a Reuben for those uninitiated to our cult.
Asa Gilmore is a photographer and connoisseur of sandwiches. He is a Nevada native and prefers his steak rare and his beer cold. He dislikes biographies of himself, but approves this message.