The Reuben Sandwich is a classic: A grilled sandwich made with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye bread. Who came up with this original sandwich combination? There are a few compelling stories which claim to document the creation of this lunchtime fave, but there isn’t any concrete evidence to support any of the claims to the Reuben’s origin.
One popular account is that the Reuben was created by Arnold Reuben; founder of Reuben’s Restaurant and Delicatessen, back in 1914. Food legend has it that he created the sandwich at the late night request of Charlie Chapman and his actress companion. Another version, from the same restaurant is that the sandwich was created for the owner himself by one of the chefs who thought Arnold ate too many hamburgers.
A second claim is that the Reuben was invented in the 1920’s in Omaha, Nebraska at a weekly late night poker game at the Blackstone Hotel hosted by the hotel's owner. Needing a late night snack, one of the players, Reuben Kulakofsky had some corned beef and dark rye bread brought over from his nearby grocery store. The hotel owner’s son, Bernard Schimmel was a chef and created the sandwich to feed the hungry group. The result, the Reuben Sandwich, was put on the menu at the hotel’s coffee shop.
Which version is true? Who cares? It’s a delicious indulgent sandwich that has made it to many a lunchtime menu across the nation. A diner menu would not be complete without a good Reuben. The Lake Effect Diner’s version includes house cured and roasted corned beef. The meat is thinly slice and piled on grilled house made rye bread along with sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese, and of course the Diner’s own Thousand Island dressing.
Corned beef not your thing? Never fear, Reuben’s sister Rachel is here too. For the Rachel Sandwich, the Lake Effect Diner replaces the corned beef with house smoked, thinly sliced turkey breast. The accoutrements are the same on the Rachel as the Reuben-they are after all, from the exact same family. Each sandwich comes with a side of fresh cut fries.
Personally, for me, the Classic Reuben is the way to go here. The saltiness of the corned beef, pared with the tang of the sauerkraut, the sweetness of the thousand Island dressing, and the sharpness of the creamy, melted Swiss cheese-all between two slices of crisped fresh rye bread, is something not to be messed with. No matter which Reuben the sandwich is actually named for, I will always be a big fan of this culinary creation. So thanks Reuben, whoever you are.