Why the Reuben Works so Well

Reuben sandwich

Posted in Uncategorized, on 4 January 2019, by , 0 Comments


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 slices Rye bread
  • 3 tablespoons Sauerkraut (drained)
  • ¼ cup Thousand Island Dressing
  • 2 slices Swiss cheese
  • 4-8 slices corner beef (depending on thickness

There is no more famous deli sandwich than the classic Reuben. This sandwich has achieved near mythic status in the deli world, and legends abound that it was made by either Reuben Kulakofsky of Nebraska or Arnold Reuben of New York City, both Jewish-American immigrants.

Both stories tell of a sandwich slapped together. For Kulakofsky, it was a poker game in the 1920s. For Reuben, it was when a Broadway actress came in looking for a meal. Either way, the key part of the story is that the Reuben was more or less an accident, which is probably not exactly the truth.

The truth of the Reuben is that it is a perfectly balanced sandwich. Each element brings together a complex comingling of flavors. The base of the sandwich, the Rye bread, is earthy and strong, sometimes sour and sometimes spicy. This flavor is softened and enhanced by the butter used to brown the bread in a pan.

Inside the sandwich, the saltiness of the corned beef is balanced against the sour acidity of the sauerkraut and the sweetness of the Swiss cheese (a flavor enhanced upon melting). All of these flavors are then melded and united by the Thousand Island dressing. A proper Thousand Island dressing is a menagerie of flavors from mayonnaise to ketchup, sweet relish to onion. It is, by itself, a complex ingredient, and one that ultimately determines the success of the Reuben. But a quality Thousand Island dressing represents the other flavors brought together – the earthy, sour, salty, and sweet flavors all united.

The earliest written text of the Reuben came in a Theatre Magazine that referenced Arnold Reuben’s Reuben Special. This is the closest thing to an indication that he might be the originator of the sandwich, but there is no definitive proof that he did not get the idea from somewhere else.

What has kept the Reuben alive is not its history though, it is its complexity in simplicity. The ingredients determine the true quality of the dish, though putting it together is relatively simple. It is a sandwich that will live on and on, and it is one that we at Element 29 believe in keeping alive as well.

Try ours now and ask us anytime about how to make the perfect sauerkraut or dressing!