Few sandwiches have as many origin stories as the Reuben.
Some say that the hot sandwich, which squeezes layers of salt-cured corned beef, sauerkraut and a swipe of Russian dressing between slices of rye, was invented by a grocer named Reuben Kulakofsky in Omaha, Neb. Others insist the Reuben was created by Arnold Reuben, founder of the defunct Reuben’s Restaurant and Delicatessen in New York City.
Corned beef gets its name from the rock salt — also known as “corns” of salt — used in the curing process. It’s typically made from tough cuts like brisket or eye of round that become tender with low-and-slow cooking.
Here in Kansas City, delis don’t claim to have invented the Reuben — but many will tell you they’ve perfected it. Recently, I went in search of the area’s best Reubens and discovered that the sandwich had even more variations than origin stories.
At Breit’s Stein and Deli, 412 N. Fifth St. in Kansas City, Kan., the signature Reuben is seared slowly on a panini press until the marble rye is crispy-golden on the outside and the Swiss inside is molten.
At $4.50 — a price that includes chips, potato salad or macaroni salad — Breit’s grilled cheese-style Reuben sandwich is a steal.
“People tell me I need to raise my prices,” says owner Bob Breitenstein, “but I’m trying not to.”
The Reuben at Grinders, with locations at 417 E. 18th St. and 10240 Pflumm Road in Lenexa, has a softer, looser construction. The $9 sandwich tops paper-thin shreds of seasoned corned beef with homemade Thousand Island dressing, baby Swiss and sauerkraut studded with charred bits of jalapeno that are more sweet than spicy. The marble rye is grilled, but not pressed, so the sandwich stands tall and will spill its contents if you’re not careful.