Saturday, December 21, 2013

Episode XXIII: Wrecking Bar Brewpub (ATL)

In the early days of the Reuben Ranger the scope of the blog was narrow. Reubens only.  A co-worker told me about the House Pastrami Sandwich at the Wrecking Bar Brewpub and suggested I check it out for the blog. It certainly sounded like it was created in the spirit of a Reuben but it was not called one. I emailed the Wrecking Bar to ask if they ever considered adding a Reuben to the menu and they actually wrote back with a great description of their House Pastrami. It was this series of events that compelled me to add Reuben-inspired sandwiches to the blog. After trying it, I was glad I did.

House Pastrami Sandwich
“Painted Hills brisket, house cured & smoked, baby collards kimchi, Korean chili-garlic mayo & baby Swiss, marbled rye”

Appearance – (4.2/5.0)
Pretty standard presentation of the sandwich itself and the rest of the plate complement it well. The pickle’s crinkle cut really stood out and I was so happy to see a Reuben without toothpicks.  A Reuben sans toothpicks and nobody died, nobody spilled on themselves, and nobody missed them. Bravo!

Quality Of Ingredients – (4.8/5.0)
This sandwich was an excellent combination of quality fundamental ingredients taken to the next level by flawless culinary execution.  They have taken the time to make their own brine and have nailed just the right amount of smoke. Smoke is not an ingredient you hear about on this blog but it was no doubt a foundational ingredient.  All of this comes together to make a phenomenal pastrami. There is more about it in the taste section.  Bottom line is they started with solid ingredients and knew what to do with them.

Price – (4.1/5.0)
$11. My son can count to 11 so it can’t be that high, but anything in double digits better be worth it.  When I reached out to the management, they really detailed the time and effort that goes into creating the dish. I have to admit that it does come out in the taste. The atmosphere was very warm and welcoming. The service was prompt without feeling rushed. Tough to crack a 4.0 at $11 but they did.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (4.0/5.0)
 Oddly enough, my wife and I came away from this experience talking about the fact that our server brought us separate checks. We didn’t know what to think and just laughed about it. That has not happened in the seven years we have been together.
This sandwich may have exposed a flaw in my rating system because it does not score overwhelmingly high in this category. The quality and strengths of the sandwich were front and center. There was not much mystery about what made it so good. One thing different was that it had a spicy element.  That chili-garlic mayo has a slow burn that I enjoyed.

Taste – (9.7/10.0)
Salt, smoke, and fat. Boom! Salt + smoke I think of a great piece of smoked Salmon. Salt + fat, think French fries. Fat + smoke, hmm. What has fat and smoke but not a whole lot of salt… Remember folks, I’m an amateur here.
The meat in this sandwich had a great blend of the three. There may have been just a bit too much salt. I tried my wife’s burger and I thought the same thing. The rye bread, which I have not mentioned yet, played a great supporting role. It let the stars shine but was there to answer the call when necessary.

Overall – (26.8/30.0)
Wow. Would I order it again? Yes! Even at $11. It was not the classic Reuben, but it is one I think every Reuben-lover out there would enjoy.

I also think it is great the manager took time to send me a detailed email about the sandwich. I take this blog seriously and it is nice to see other people do too. Top to bottom great experience and I can’t wait to go back.
Wrecking Bar Brewpub on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Episode XXII: The Globe (AHN)

It’s Saturday in Athens!
My college roommate’s little brother is a PhD student at UGA. That was as good excuse as any for us to go visit him and take in a Georgia football game. Go Dawgs!  (Going to have to add Dawgs to spell check.)
I had done some Reuben research before the trip but I did not want to be “that guy” and insist we go somewhere. When they suggested The Globe, I said sure! I knew they had a Reuben and I was excited for Athens, GA to get on the Reuben Ranger map. Incidentally, my roommate was present  for Episode III back at Lir in Boston. That Reuben was a disaster. I was hoping Episode XXII would be much better.

“Corned Beef with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and 1,000 Island on rye.”

Appearance – (4.2/5.0)
The game kicked off at 12:30, so after daylight drinking, stadium M&Ms, and popcorn, I was not that hungry. In order to give the Reuben all of my attention, I decided to forgo the fries and order the salad instead. Nice looking salad though. I think it frames the Reuben well. We do have toothpicks but they are clearly marked. There were also very visible signs of properly melted cheese.  Look at this side view.  I was pleased when this plate landed in front of me.

Quality Of Ingredients – (4.1/5.0)
The corned beef was very tender and sliced thin. The cheese was great and abundant. There have been too many times where I have had to hunt for the cheese. It is just as much of a binding agent as the 1,000 Island. It would not seem that they would work well together but they do! I wish more places would consider adding more cheese to their Reuben. The sauerkraut could have had some more zing but you knew it was there.

Price – (4.3/5.0)
This cost $8.49. I think that is very good considering we were out on a game night in Athens. The place was packed and had a great vibe. We also had a table by the windows so it was good for people watching. The portion could have been bigger, but given that I was not starving it worked out ok.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (4.0/5.0)
I needed a good Reuben. Sometimes I start to worry that the blog is a sounding board to complain about sub-par Reubens. I was happy when I saw this sandwich and it gave me some good vibes. Once I tasted it I knew I was in for a good one.  The marbling on the rye did throw me a bit. It is not so much marble as concentric circles. It makes the center of the bread look lonely.
Taste – (9.0/10.0)
Yep, we are up in the 9s. It was a good execution of good ingredients.  There was not too much salt and the temperature at serving was also perfect, which I believe enhanced the flavor. I may have burned my mouth on the first bite but it was perfect after that. I can be a fast eater (remember that part about me being a former fat kid?).  So when I am with other people I try to be conscious of that, but it's hard to slow down when you have a hot delicious sandwich starting right at you.

Overall – (25.6/30.0)

Would I order it again? Yes!  Dave has a few years left in Athens and you can bet I will be back to see him and hopefully get back to The Globe.
Globe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Episode XXI: Rose & Crown Tavern (ATL)

I had been on something of a hot streak as a Broncos fan in Atlanta this year. The first 7 weeks of the season I was able to watch the Broncos game on TV; I was never this lucky in Boston. Finally in Week 8 the Falcons were out west playing the Cardinals at 4:15 and the Broncos were hosting the Redskins at the same time. No worries, this gave me a perfect excuse to go back to the Rose & Crown. The Broncos’ meetup of Atlanta is there every week. You may remember the Rose & Crown from Episode VII. Sunday Reuben and Broncos football, not a bad day.

Pub Reuben
“Toasted marble rye loaded with corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and Russian dressing”
I almost missed another jab at the Swiss because of the font but look closely. It looks like all caps but the R in Russian and the T in Toasted are bigger. That just must be how this font works.

Appearance – (3.4/5.0)
Fundamentals. This sandwich did poorly on the gimmies. Let’s break this down.
First the outside of the plate was not wiped down before it went out. There is a tiny bit of cheese or sauce there on the outside that caught my eye. Next the fries are all over the place. So much so that you can see Danny’s hand in the picture trying to straighten things out.

Finally, the toothpicks look like a bad hole placement on a miniature golf course. Toothpicks can be functional but there is no way those are serving a purpose. This sandwich had potential for a high score because of the nice marble and the great contrast in colors between the Russian dressing and the sauerkraut but poor execution cannot be overlooked.

Quality of Ingredients – (4.0/5.0)
This one had great individual pieces except the corned beef. The rye was buttery and toasted well, the sauerkraut really stood up well to the rest of the flavors, and the Russian dressing was great.  The corned beef was not as warm as it could have been and I think it came right out of a package. All of the pieces were uniform and I strongly doubt they made it on premises, much less sliced the meat to order. The beef was also too salty; I downed a couple mason jars of water after this one. It is too bad because the rest of the pieces were so good, but you cannot cut corners on the main ingredient.

On a related note, we had the Brownie Surprise for dessert and the same thing happened! The brownie was cold and stale but the ice-cream and whip cream were great. The bananas were fresh too.  I say just take out the brownie and call it a Sundae.

Price – (3.9/5.0)
The Pub Reuben is $9.50 but the Bella Reuben (Portobello mushrooms instead of the corned beef) is $9.25. The mushrooms tasted better than the beef, so if you are supposed to be paying a premium for the meat then I think something is wrong here. This score could have been lower but I do appreciate that the meal came with the Broncos game watch. The staff reserves an entire room for us and puts up our Broncos flag. They also brought Danny some crayons. You can always score points with me by being nice to Danny.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (3.8/5.0)
Despite the issues listed, this sandwich did ok here and I think it was the sauerkraut. The last time I was here I described it as “stiff” and I think that was true this time around as well. I mean this in a good way. There is a lot going on in a Reuben and the sauerkraut needs to be able to power through. It made me forget about the mediocre corned beef. I think this could have also suffered because of the fact that the Broncos were playing horribly when I was eating this.  Danny also decided to start acting up, so I put him on my lap and tried to eat this thing one-handed. Look at it. This or any Reuben is not meant for one-handed consumption.

Taste – (8.2/10.0)
This Reuben falls in the good-not-great category. The sauerkraut and the Russian dressing really carried the load and you can never go wrong with buttery toasted rye bread.  Yes, the corned beef was not what it could be, but there were still some good bites in there. I could not get Danny to try any of it but he sure did like the fries.

Overall – (23.3/30.0)
There is potential here but it is disappointing to see it squandered. Simple fixes on the presentation could go a long way. There may have to be a more serious discussion about what should happen with the corned beef.

The pieces of the puzzle are in place to make an outstanding Reuben, they just have to figure out the last one.  Would I order it again? No. Now that I have had both, I would order the Bella again. It had all the good elements of this one minus the beef!
Rose & Crown Tavern on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 18, 2013

Episode XX: Flying Saucer (SAT)

I know, I know. It has been a while since my last post. My inbox is overflowing with anxious, almost angry, emails from fans waiting for the next episode of the Reuben Ranger (Sarcasm). Well it is here and it’s a special one.

We go out west to San Antonio to visit the Flying Saucer. This place has a thinly veiled alcoholic start-up program that they call the UFO Club. You drink 200 beers and they put your name on a plate up on the wall.  There are mini awards along the way to keep you drinking.

You can only get credit for three drinks in one day so it is not really the binge drinking kind of alcoholism, it's more the slow-and-steady-three-beers-does-not-even-give-me-a-buzz kind. Turns out my sister and my brother-in-law have taken the bait and are well on their way to the plate. I am all for this, by the way; I wish they had one here in Atlanta.

“Pastrami, jalapeño-kraut, melted Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing on toasted marble rye.” 

Appearance – (3.8/5.0)
First impression here is the butcher paper on the plate. Hmmmm. We have seen brown paper bags, baskets, plates and butcher paper all working solo but this is an interesting combination. Not really sure what it does. I would say minimal value-added. You still have to wash the plate, right?

One slice of pastrami did not make it in. Oddly enough it looks like the sandwich is sticking its tongue out at me. It obviously does not know how this ends.

There is good marbling on the rye and you can see a slight hint of green in the kraut from the jalapeños.  Also the standard stray pickle and toothpicks; what can you do?

Quality Of Ingredients – (4.1/5.0)
All good stuff here. There is usually a weak link in almost every sandwich but that is not the case here. The pastrami had good flavor and was not too salty. The jalapeños could have had more kick to them.  You could tell the bread was rye without Caraway domination. I guess there was no weak link, but there were no superstars either.

Price – (3.9/5.0)
For San Antonio $8.29 is not cheap. There is also an 8.25% sales tax in the Lone Star State. The atmosphere was good and there were plenty of TVs with all kinds of college football on, so that keeps the score closer to 4.0.  What kept it below 4.0 was the portion size of the potato salad. They are stingy with that stuff. It was really good too, so it made me even more upset. I gave up ordering fries for that. In the end it is a good deal because our server was nice and you could tell she had a big heart.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (4.7/5.0)The “Esque”, as I like to call it, and the Flying Saucer in general were fun. The jalapeños mixed things up a bit in Reubenland.  I think the JNSQ was sitting at a 4.5 and our server gets credit for the last point 2.
Taste – (8.3/10.0)
I usually base my taste score on the quality of the ingredients then ask myself if the whole was greater than the parts. In this case I say the whole was greater (4.1x2=8.2) although not by much. I think just a little more of a kick from the jalapeño could have really taken this one to another level.  Solid ingredients put together make a solid sandwich. 

Overall – (24.8/30.0)

Would I order the Esuqe again? I am not sure. There are some other things on the menu I would want to try first before going back to the Esque. My wife had a burger that was superb and there are other menu items that feature the jalapeño-kraut.  I would go back to the Flying Saucer for sure and I look forward to doing so.

(This is Matthew, my favorite nephew)

Flying Saucer on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 23, 2013

Episode XIX: Malone's (ATL)

The blog has really caught on with my co-workers. Sometimes I don’t know if they are laughing with me or at me, but nonetheless, no fewer than 7 of them signed up for the latest Reuben adventure. We all went to Malone’s and it was Reubens all around, almost. Brett chose not to get one. This is actually his third Reuben adventure tag-a-long but he has yet to order one. He’ll cave eventually.

"Deli sliced pastrami, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and 1000 Island on grilled marble rye bread”
Again Swiss is not capitalized. I can tell you that MS Word spell check does underline it. This means they either think Word is wrong or they don’t care. Martina, I apologize on behalf of Malone’s and misspelled American menus everywhere.

Appearance – (3.8/5.0)
Good natural looking marble rye but let’s get right to it. It looks like there is a pastrami taco inside this sandwich. I have not seen this before. They slice the pastrami long enough to just stuff the sauerkraut in there. I have zoomed in a few times and I just don’t think I like it.

Quality Of Ingredients – (4.1/5.0)
The pastrami was actually pretty good but Charith did point out that it was a bit salty. (MS Word has issues with Charith) The 1000 Island by definition came out of a bottle and the sauerkraut was solid. The sauerkraut is so important to the Reuben taste profile and this one was good.

Price – (3.4/5.0)
$8.59 is not exactly cheap, with nothing to offset the price either. There is nothing special about the ambiance at Malone’s; it is a pretty standard restaurant. It does come with a pickle but I am not really crazy about them and the other guys were not either. Kyle was the big winner in this as he collected about five unwanted pickles on his plate.

I would also like to talk ketchup. Some places do the ketchup in a little cup on the plate. Can I just get a bottle of Heinz 57 on the table? I feel like they are being cheap with the ketchup. I usually preemptively order more when the server drops off the plate.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (3.2/5.0)  
Did they really fold the pastrami around the sauerkraut? I am having a hard time getting past that one. Not really an X-factor with this sandwich. It is one of the few pastrami Reubens on the blog, and I thought that alone would give it some points here but it has disappointed.

Taste – (8.3/10.0)
This was good, certainly not bad, but nothing outstanding. The folding sauerkraut is a doubled edged sword. It facilitates the perfect bite experience. I think the sauerkraut was tossed in the 1000 Island so there is no avoiding it. The problem was there was too much of the filling. On some bites the filling flushes out and you get a solo sauerkraut bite. Have you ever taken an initial small bite out of a Qdoba burrito and then just let everything inside of the burrito come out on the second bite? That is a good thing, solo sauerkraut is not.

Overall – (22.8/30.0)
Not the best Reuben experience. Maybe I should check these places out first before I invite a hoard of co-workers. Would I order it again? No. I had the meatloaf the time before this and it was awesome.

Malone's Steak & Seafood on Urbanspoon Malones Steak & Seafood

Monday, August 19, 2013

Episode XVIII: Jason's Deli (ATL)

Tamales or a Reuben? My tamales were hot out of the microwave and I was heading back to my desk, when my co-workers asked me to come along to Jason’s. I knew they had a Reuben and it was Monday… What is more depressing than having lunch at your desk, alone, on a Monday? So the tamales went back in the office fridge and I was off to Jason’s with the crew.

Reuben THE Great
“1/2 pound of hot corned beef or pastrami, Swiss, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, grilled on rye.”

This thing looks like your grandfather’s Reuben.

Appearance – (4.3/5.0)
Chips in the middle, that’s new. I like the ends of the sandwich facing out like that. You can tell the selling point in the description is that there is so much meat. You might as well show it off. Look at the subtle layer of color that the Russian dressing gives on the underside of the top bread. It looks like they coordinated that with the color of the toothpick. There is no way that toothpick penetrates the entire sandwich. If it had at least been functional I would have looked the other way, but the damn toothpicks strike again.

Quality Of Ingredients – (4.1/5.0)
This is tough because the corned beef was excellent, [Here are some of the words MS Word suggested I could use instead of Excellent: Outstanding, Brilliant, Exceptional, First-Rate, Poor (Antonym)] but the sauerkraut was not. First the beef. It was very tender and there was plenty of it. It was seasoned right and just tasted like good corned beef. I wanted to go back in the kitchen and take some with me to make corned beef hash with eggs for breakfast the next morning. The sauerkraut had a nice texture, very light and fluffy, but it was too…sour. This is the main reason people tell me they would not order a Reuben, the sauerkraut. Sauerkraut does not have to be that strong to taste good. Unfortunately, there was lots of it.

Price – (3.9/5.0)
This was $6.89 for the “lighter portion”. I would say it was an ok value. You figure the corned beef had to be the most expensive thing on the plate and they piled that on, but the potato chips, which are the cheapest, they kind of skimped on.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (3.7/5.0)
The outward facing presentation carries over into this category but the potato chips really took the wind out of my sails. It seems like they put so much time and effort into the sandwich, the least they could do is not make the side look depressing. The chips are a filler and look lost on the plate.

Taste – (8.1/10.0)
The whole was less than the parts for this Reuben. There is more to a Reuben than just the corned beef. Maybe they thought that if they piled it up real high then the other stuff would not matter. This is not the case. Some bites were all corned beef. Despite the bright layer of visible Russian dressing, you could not taste it. Same thing with the Swiss. I had to take apart the Reuben to make sure there was cheese in there. Once I found the Swiss, it did taste good. I am trying to remember anything about the rye and nothing comes to mind. Some folks have asked me if I take notes when I go. I don’t. It looks like maybe I should.

Overall – (24.1/30.0)
This was your grandfather’s Reuben. When you hear old folks talk about Reubens, this is what they have in mind. It is a heaping pile of warm corned beef and enough sauerkraut to match it. I have been critical of some places for not respecting the Reuben enough. I think Jason’s might respect it too much. It is ok to throw a bit more cheese on there, or perhaps find a way to get more dressing in there too. You can have fun with it. Would I order it again? Probably not. This is not to say it was bad, but there are just so many other good looking things at this place. The opportunity cost would be too high to order this Reuben again, however I stand by my decision to save the tamales for another day.

Jason's Deli on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Episode XVII: Jack's New York Deli (ATL)

Time was running out to try Jack’s New York Deli. We are closing on a house ITP this week and my days in Smynings are numbered. A friend from work (Stu is a Chargers fan but we can look past that during the off-season) recommended this place. Word about the blog is really starting to get around. I have a good list of places from folks I want to try next. Please keep the recommendations coming.

Real Reuben"Lean sliced corned beef, sauerkraut, and swiss cheese served on toasted rye with Russian Dressing”
Did anyone else notice they capitalized Russian but not Swiss? Who likes the Russians but hates the Swiss? Iran? Syria? Remember this picture?

I mean, Russia does not have too many friends out there and Switzerland does not have too many enemies. Strange. Back to the Reubens.

Appearance – (4.3/5.0) Good execution of the fundamentals. Sandwich is cut in half, melted cheese visible, toasted bread, no toothpicks, and it comes in basket. There is also some good layering at work here. I saw the grill master make this thing. He made it the way you would a cheesesteak. Everything on the grill was chopped and tossed around. It makes for a great visual.   

Quality Of Ingredients – (3.9/5.0) The bread was out of a bag and the other ingredients seemed to be pre-portioned. They were not slicing the meat to order or anything. I did really like the Swiss cheese though (did you see what I did there, Swiss). How about those fries? Usually if I talk about the side dish the Reuben is in trouble. Not the case here. These fries were premium potatoes.
Price – (4.6/5.0)
$7.99 is not cheap but it did come with fries and a drink. So if you assume each of those extras is $1, the sandwich would be $5.99. This was a great deal all the way around.
Je Ne Sais Quoi – (4.4/5.0)  
This was a fun little place. Our server knew a few people by name. You could tell there were some regulars from the neighborhood. Good luck finding it though. It is tucked away out of view from the street. If Stu had not told me about it, I don’t know if I would have come. My wife is claiming she had told me several times about this place. She is my editor so I am going to say she is right. I think Dana mentioned this place too.

Of all the Reubens on this blog, this one knocked me into the deepest food coma by far. I was out all afternoon taking a nap. I could barely open my eyes after it and I did not want to move.

Taste – (9.0/10.0) Despite not having amazing individual ingredients, this Reuben was on point. The toasted bread held up well and facilitated some perfect bites. The Swiss cheese was in every bite and the sauerkraut had just the right amount of kick to it. I think the cheesesteak preparation method had a lot to do with the taste.

The corned beef was very tender. When this happens I have to consciously remind myself to chew the food. You could just swallow this thing if you wanted to.

Overall – (26.2/30.0)
I am very happy I came and I will be back. There are other great looking Reuben Ranger eligible sandwiches on the menu so who knows which one will be next. Smynings, it’s been real.

Jack's New Yorker Deli on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Episode XVI: TechOps Hangar Cafe (ATL)

I stuck my neck out in Episode XIV and said I liked the employee cafeteria. What did I get in return? A very half-hearted effort at making a Reuben. So when I recently transferred to a new group outside of the main campus, there was a new cafeteria to try. I was told it is even worse than the one on the mother ship. The new place does have a Reuben so it was only a matter of time before I tried it. I rounded up my new set of co-workers and off we went.
Georgia Reuben"Over Roasted Turkey Breast, Sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian Dressing"


Appearance – (4.1/5.0) Simple presentation but I like it. I have not talked about this in a while, but look at the marbling on the rye. It looks natural, not CAD produced. You also have some overflowing turkey meat and the sandwich is cut in half. One detail I thought was very thoughtful was that they put the pickle underneath the butcher paper. I like pickles as much as the next guy but I don’t like pickle juice to come in direct contact with my Reuben. The pickle is back in the shadows waiting its turn, not shoving its way on stage.

Quality Of Ingredients – (3.2/5.0) The individual ingredients were ok. The bread came out of a bag, the turkey was standard cold cut deli, and same thing with the cheese. The Russian dressing was great but I do not think it was homemade. All of the right ingredients were present and accounted for.

Price – (4.4/5.0) At only $4.49 this was a deal.  The portion was kind of small or what people outside the US would call “normal”.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (3.8/5.0) I was excited to eat this sandwich. I am going to be at this job for at least a year and if I can get a good go-to Reuben that would be awesome.  This was also Jeff’s first Reuben. It was also cool to see them put it through the Quizno’s style toaster.   

Taste – (8.3/10.0) Wonderful Reuben taste to it. The conveyer toaster toasts the bread and warms the sauerkraut but it does not have enough energy to heat up the meat. It was weird to get a mouthful that was half warm and half cold. The Russian dressing did its job and held the sandwich together but it swallowed up the Swiss cheese.  They were placed on the same side of the sandwich.  I prefer the layering to be as follows:
Rye Bread

It is all about achieving that perfect bite. You need a little bit of everything in there and if the sauce is too close to the cheese and just swallows it up you are going to miss out.  I made the adjustment myself and kept eating.

Overall – (23.7/30.0)I will be sure to come back and order this again.  The portion control also makes me feel a little bit better about eating a Reuben.  This may only be like 550 calories as opposed to a good 800-950 like others on the blog. Next time, I think I will ask them to assemble properly and maybe even take a second go-through on the toaster. I cannot speak to the rest of the food at this place.  I admit, it looks suspect but the Reuben is well executed.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Episode XV: Meehan's Public House (ATL)

The rain held out just long enough in Atlanta this year to get in the Peachtree Road Race. It was my first time running so I was happy to get my Fourth of July off to a good start. I did not want to complain about the rain the rest of afternoon so I thought I would go get a Reuben. Meehan’s Public House in Vinings it is.
A Reuben on the Fourth? You bet! It may not seem American but it is. There are competing accounts of where the Reuben originated, but both claim it happened here in the U.S.A.  So Happy Birthday America!
Meehan’s Corned Beef Reuben
“Heywood’s corned beef, Swiss Cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, on marble rye”

Appearance – (4.6/5.0)
Very nice. Fans of the blog know I do not like toothpicks and I may have said that a Reuben with toothpicks would never score above a 4.0, but allow me to explain. It is not that I don’t like toothpicks in my food; it is that I am scared of forgetting about them and piercing my gums! Small toothpicks are dangerous and are asking for trouble. Sometimes they try to mitigate this danger by putting those sparkly tips on the end. I am not impressed. The line cook that puts those things in must feel like a matador. He probably goes up on his toes before sticking the banderillas into the sandwich. Anyways, the larger than life toothpicks are easily indentified and removed. I think I was at a greater risk of poking my eye out than piercing my gums.
You can tell there was some thought put into this solid presentation; both sides of the sandwich are showcased. This is the color profile you are supposed to see in a Reuben.  (Don’t be shy about zooming in with your smart phone on this one) The color of the corned beef is classic and you can make out each of the other components. No visible marble on the rye but you can make out the caraway seeds.

Quality Of Ingredients – (3.9/5.0)

The corned beef was very tender, a bit salty, but it was a quality product. The other components were hard to find but good when you found them. The Swiss cheese was melty, but I think it may have lost some of its depth of flavor in the change of state. The sauerkraut was above average but I did not give it much thought after the first bite. I honestly cannot remember much about the Russian dressing… I guess that means it was just average.

Price – (3.0/5.0)
Whoa man, whoa! $12 for a Reuben? Really? I mean I realize we are in swanky Vinings here but $12 is a bit much. I saw that on the menu and the whole time I was waiting for my food I was looking around trying to figure out how I would justify $12. I worked in real-estate finance in a previous life and I almost got out my old Excel real estate pro-forma to model the P&L for this place and see if I could back solve to a $12 Reuben.  They are literally charging more than they do at the airport.
What else could you buy in metro-Atlanta for $12? You could buy 12 bags of Animal Crackers at Target.  It is not like there was trivia, live music or something else to offset the price either. The best tasting beer is the one that is free.  Knowing the steep price did slightly inhibit the experience for me from that point on.

Update: Meehan's got back to me about this price. The reason it is so expensive is that the corned beef and bread is locally sourced. The Chef puts lots of time and effort to make this a great sandwich.  I appreciate them getting back to me and the love they put into their Reuben. As a result, I have adjusted this score up to a 3.0 from the original 1.9.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (3.8/5.0)
Once it did come and I got over the fact that it was $12, I was pleased. This Reuben had a great smell as it came to the table, something I do not remember writing about for others on the blog. The sweet potato fries gave it a color backdrop on which to shine. I also loved the generous portion of corned beef (still not $12 worth).  There were some bites that were just a mouthful of beef.  Mmmm…
Taste – (8.6/10.0)
Simply put, this was an excellent Reuben. It was just a tad bit too salty to get a 9.0. That is a shame too because sometimes restaurants just use salt to help along a mediocre dish.  There was no need for that here. More than anything I think it was just good execution of what a Reuben should be. The last two blog posts have been of Reuben wanna-be failures. I really wanted to find a good one to get back up on the horse.
I would have liked more of a kick from the Russian dressing and perhaps more Swiss cheese.  There were some bites that did not have either.  The bread was nice, could have been more toasted but had good flavor.

Overall – (23.9/30.0)
The big question is would I order it again? No, not for that price. What can I say, I am a finance guy and I’m cheap. I really liked the place, the servers were nice and Danny was having fun people watching. I would go back to have a pint at the bar ($5.50 for a pint of Sam Adams) but I will just eat somewhere else. 
Our au pair, Heidy, joined us and it was her first Reuben!

Meehan's Public House on Urbanspoon Meehan's Public House, Vinings

Friday, June 28, 2013

Episode XIV: The Woolman Café (ATL)

I like the employee cafeteria. I may have already lost a few of my colleagues by saying that, but I do.  We do not actually run the cafeteria, a private third party does, which I think is odd because we can run an airline, an oil refinery, but a BLT is a little out of our league.
The last time I was down there I was surprised to see the sandwich bar was advertising a Turkey Rachel Reuben.  I have to say that I was skeptical.
According to Wikipedia the Rachel is, “a variation on the standard Reuben sandwich, substituting pastrami for the corned beef and coleslaw for the sauerkraut. Other recipes for the Rachel call for turkey instead of corned beef or pastrami. In some parts of the United States, especially Michigan, this turkey variant is known as a "Georgia Reuben" or "California Reuben," which sometimes uses barbecue sauce instead of Russian or Thousand Island.”
Here is the sign

Appearance – (3.9/5.0)
Green and red are not the accent colors you expect from a Reuben. I am scrolling through old posts and I don’t see any green or red coming from inside the sandwich. Sure you have pickles and ketchup on the side but look at this one. The green from the spinach – wait, I think this guy must have slipped in some spinach. That was not on the sign. Anyway, not the visual presentation I am used to for a Reuben.  It looks like a clean cut turkey sandwich. No toothpicks and I appreciate that they cut it in half.

Quality Of Ingredients – (4.0/5.0) The individual ingredients were solid and generally are at this place.  The tomatoes and spinach were fresh.  It seemed like pretty standard turkey and Swiss cheese.  The pumpernickel bread was s ok, but I prefer the taste of rye. I think all of us already know that.        

Price– (3.3/5.0) $6.19, no bueno.  I think this is the biggest complaint about the cafeteria, it is expensive.  The same company that runs the cafeteria also runs all of the vending machines so there is no escaping them. 
Je Ne Sais Quoi – (2.6/5.0) I have to admit I was intrigued when I saw this sign.  The intrigue ended after the first bite. It was a good turkey sandwich but not much more.  The magic of the Reuben is taking a whole bunch of ingredients nobody likes and putting them all together in one bite and somehow it tastes amazing.  No magic like that here.  You look at the turkey sandwich, you know what is in there and it tastes like a good turkey sandwich. End of story.
Taste – (7.9/10.0) This was not a bad tasting sandwich, it just want not a Reuben.  The fresh tomatoes really tasted good.  I have been told that is what you are supposed to do with fresh garden tomatoes, slice them up for a sandwich.  Do not even think about making them into salsa. No sir. 

Overall – (21.7/30.0)I think this is the same story from Which Wich.  If you want to attach the word “Reuben” to a sandwich that has to mean something. Toast the bread, heat up the meat, put in the effort!  This sandwich was just too far off base to call it a Reuben.  Maybe they could have gotten away with just calling it a Rachel but they chose to add Reuben on there to try and lure in unsuspecting Reuben aficionados.  I would have known better but I see this as my duty to try it and let all of you fine people know so you can make informed decisions.  All and all it was ok but next time I am going back to my Buffalo Chicken Wrap (easy on the Blue Cheese and extra hot sauce).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Episode XIII: Which Wich (ATL)

Friday at the office means getting away from my desk and going out to lunch. On this day it was Which Wich to try the No Rye Reuben.  My boss had told me about it, and even sent me a picture, but it was time for me to try it for myself. 

Appearance – (3.2/5.0)       
 As you Which Wich fans out there know, everything comes in a brown paper bag. The picture below is me helping them out a bit by taking it out and splitting it.  (On a side note, I noticed this week that all of the pictures on my phone are either of Reubens or babies.  Not sure what that says about me.) Once I got a good view of it, I realized that being a roll and not sliced bread really does change the look. It really does change the whole make-up of the sandwich or maybe it was just the way they made it.  The 1000 Island dressing was on the bottom and the sauerkraut was piled on the top, so they don’t really touch one another.  There was no overflow and don’t let that yellow spot on the foil fool you. It is not melted cheese or extra dressing; it is just the reflection of the yellow letters on the wrapper. This should all be expected, so no surprises here.

Quality Of Ingredients – (3.6/5.0)     
I was disappointed with  the ingredients.  I am a Which Wich fan and they have good ingredients, but the Reuben is its own monster.  The corned beef was mediocre.  This is a cold cuts shop, and I love cold cuts, but a really good Reuben has tender warm corned beef.  There was nothing special about the sauerkraut. It tasted like it was out of a jar and also not very hot.  The 1000 Island was probably the most disappointing.  That stuff out of a jar can taste good, but this tasted like it was out of a can and was just so-so.  The best ingredient was the wheat (no rye) bread.  It was toasty and hearty.
Price – (4.3/5.0)      
Can’t complain here. The regular 7” sub is under $6.  It is always great to see the price of a sandwich start with a 5.
Je Ne Sais Quoi – (2.2/5.0)   
 There is so little unknown about this sandwich that I don’t even know what to write here.  This sandwich is strictly the combination of ingredients and nothing more. They do not magically come together to create complex layers of flavors.  It was one 1000 Island bite then one sauerkraut bite.
Taste – (6.1/10.0)                                                  
I think the most frustrating thing about the taste of this No Rye Reuben is that it was not nearly as good as other sandwiches I have had at Which Wich. I will repeat, I am a Which Wich fan, but the No Rye Reuben is not their best effort. I mean I ate it, but I would not recommend it given so many other great options at this place.

Overall – (19.4/30.0)
Pretty low score for this one.
It seems to me that the folks at Which Wich were looking down at the sandwich bar one day and realized they almost had everything to make a Reuben.  Some summer intern probably floated the name No Rye Reuben and it stuck. I guarantee you he worked the rest of the summer, unpaid, and never saw a dime in royalties.
Reubens don’t work that way folks.  There has to be a purpose.  Arby’s had the same idea but put effort into it and did it well (See Episode X).  Which Wich needs to try harder or take the Reuben off the menu. It is disrespectful to Reubens everywhere to suggest that a Reuben can somehow be more than the sum of a few of its misinterpreted parts.
As an ambassador for the Reuben to the culinary world, I am embarrassed. If you have never had a Reuben, please do not let this be your first.  Plenty of great cold cut choices at Which Wich.  I would suggest going with one of those.

Which Wich on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Episode XII: Cracker Barrel (ATL)

Throughout its history, Atlanta has been a transportation hub. Plains, trains and automobiles are always passing through.  For those of you that do not know, traffic in Atlanta is horrible, even on the weekends because of construction projects. Luckily, since so many people drive through the city on a holiday weekend, state and local governments put a temporary halt to all projects to allow traffic to flow freely.

This through traffic brought to town the Meachum family from southwestern Ohio. A quick congestion-free drive from our house took us to the local Cracker Barrel to meet up with the Meachums and their awesome RV. Table for ten please.

Grilled Reuben Platter

"A generous serving of thinly sliced seasonal corned beef, four slices of Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and our own dressing all grilled on our seeded rye bread make our Reuben one to remember."

Appearance - (3.6/5.0)No toothpicks! Instead they put two pickles in their place. Interesting, never seen it. It also appears that the pickles hold the sandwich together just as well as toothpicks. Once I got over the pickles, the burnt fries took over.  The plate is also not symmetrical, does that bother anyone else? I have not mentioned that on other posts but maybe I should start noting it. I took the sandwich apart to get the money shot and the sauerkraut took over. Looks like a sauerkraut waterfall. A little bit of effort could have really improved this score.


Quality of Ingredients - (3.7/5.0) Butter. That is the first thing that came to mind with this Reuben. I should have known given the name was Grilled Reuben and I was at a Cracker Barrel in the south. That being said, it was good butter. It did overpower the rye flavor of the bread, which is hard to do. The Swiss cheese was great and very melty. "Our own dressing" just tasted like out-of-the-bottle Thousand Island. It was ok but nothing special. The sauerkraut was kind of sweet and tangy. I almost forgot about the corned beef, not a good sign. Once I sought it out and tasted it I would say it was average.

Price - (4.1/5.0)This Reuben ended up being free for me (Thank you, Meachums!) but at the time I did not know that. It clocked in at $8.49. Not bad. Danny Boy really like the country store and we had a nice time on the rocking chairs outside after our meal. Our server was also nice enough to put in this order for me before they officially start serving lunch at 11:00 AM. Thank you, Tanisha.

Je Ne Sais Quoi - (3.0/5.0)
Ehh.. Nothing really special about this one. Danny Boy was being fussy and made it difficult to concentrate on the Reuben. Actually these pickles were good and were not your average deli pickle.  They were tangy. I ate the first one because I was curious and ate the second because the first was so good.

Taste - (8.6/5.0)
This was really a Reuben panini. It had tons of butter and was pressed. It tasted like a panini and that is not a bad thing. I think that is why they put four slices of Swiss cheese on the thing; it works well in the panini style. The other components of the sandwich took a back seat to the butter and cheese. I think it would have tasted just as good with less sauerkraut.

Overall -  (23.0/30.0)
I liked my Reuben panini and stand by my decision to order it this time. The opportunity cost was the excellent blueberry pancake plate my wife had. It takes dedication to order a Reuben at 10:54 AM but that is why I am here. I would order this again but not at breakfast. Next time I could go for some biscuits and gravy. Click to add a blog post for Cracker Barrel on Zomato