Thursday, April 18, 2013

Episode X: Arby's (ATL)

By popular demand, I decided to come to Arby's to check out their Reuben. I am sure all of you have seen the commercials on TV. As soon as I walked in I could tell they take the Reuben seriously. Check out this sign.

That must have been a great photo shoot!

"Thinly sliced corned beef, topped with melted Swiss cheese, tangy sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing and served on a toasted marble rye bread."

Appearance - (3.7/5.0)
The marbling looks more like a swirl. The first thing I thought about was French Toast, which is not bad but is a completely different flavor profile than a Reuben. I think it will be hard for anything that comes out of a wrapper to score higher than 4.0 but in the words of Justin Bieber, never say never. (Yep, I just wrote that.)

Quality of Ingredients - (4.4/5.0)
I do not think this relatively high score should surprise anyone. I think Arby's would list "sliced meat" as a core competency. This would be a great case study in any business school strategy class. You can just picture the board meeting when the Arby's Chairman of the Board said,
"Alright people, we need growth ideas." And some young associate said, "Why not a Reuben."
"I'm intrigued, go on"
"I mean, think about it. We could get all of the components. Swiss Cheese and Thousand Island are hard to mess up.  And the thing that makes or breaks the Reuben is good sliced corned beef. Slicing meat, that's our jam! The only thing we would have to think about is sauerkraut." The rest is history.
I can tell you the corned beef was tender and tasty. I would not say show stopping excellence but it was well executed. My favorite flavor note was actually the sauerkraut. It tasted like it was straight off of a New York hot-dog. Tangy indeed and they were not shy with it.
Price - (4.7/5.0)
Great deal at $5.99. It was a pretty good-sized sandwich as well. If you have had their Market Fresh sancwiches I would say it is comparable. Like all restaurants, they get you on the drink.

Je Ne Sais Quoi - (3.9/5.0)
The big Reuben sign at the front along with the tangy sauerkraut were really the boosters here. I had the place to myself when I was there. Turns out the Arby's in College Park, GA is not a happening spot on Thursday nights at 8:05 PM.  The ambiance is not really why you go to Arby's. A fast food joint does not necessarily drag down the JNSQ score but it does not exactly boost it either.

Taste - (8.9/10.0)
The taste was superb. Really I think it was just good execution of a Reuben. Hats off to Arby's corporate for producing a consistent product. The only thing that was not solid was the bread. It was warm but not really toasty. This seems to be a consistent problem out there. It seems so simple and yet adds so much to the flavor and texture of the dish. I wish more places would just take the time toast the bread.

Overall - (25.6/30.0)
This was a great Reuben experience. After talking to people about this blog, it turns out there are many Reuben virgins out there. Some people know about the sandwich but have not ordered it, and many of you out there have never even heard of them. In either case I think this would be a good introduction to the Reuben for you. It will also serve as a visible benchmark to the other Reubens out there. Can you beat Arby's? I will definitely be back at Arby's for this and the other varieties of the Reuben they offer.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Episode IX: Urban Cannibals (ATL)

RINO Alert!
Today we find ourselves in East Atlanta at Urban Cannibals to taste the Urban Reuben. Warning, the Urban is a RINO (Reuben In Name Only). I knew this going in but I wanted to let the Reuben-loving public know what they could expect if they were to try it.

Along the same lines, there are many Reuben inspired sandwiches out there that do not carry the name Reuben. Be sure to look for them as well in future Reuben Ranger posts.  Here is a breakdown in true B school 2x2 fashion. Look for the Classics, RINOs, and Reuben Inspired in this blog.

The Urban Reuben
"House Roasted Berkshire Pork, Cherry Peppers, Apple Horseradish Sauce + Smoked Gouda on H+F Bread Co. Marbled Rye"

Appearance - (3.5/5.0)
I would not quite call this marbling. Is it just me or can you see a goat in the image?

See the horns up top going along the crust. Then the goatee on the bottom and even the socket on the right. The press marks are cool but I wish they would separate the halves for the presentation. I decided to help them out even though it meant severing the goat's nose.

See, now you can see the filling and it looks better.

Quality of Ingredients - (4.0/5.0)
The pork was very tender and grill marks you see on the bread made the meat nice and warm. The smoked Gouda was no joke and it was melting into the pork. The horseradish was ok but I was expecting more of a kick. The only part I was not crazy about was the cherry peppers. There were more of them than were necessary and they were also lacking in kick. They also tasted like they had been stored in the same jar as martini olives.

Price - (3.4/5.0)
$9.99 $8.99 for the Urban. (Urban Cannibals took the time to read my blog and pointed out that despite saying $9.99 on their Facebook page, it is actaully only $8.99. So thank you for reaching out and I am happy to correct it). Now back to the blog.
I think what really got me about this place is that they charge for refills on coffee. The coffee station is in the dinning room and you serve yourself. You pay at the end and refills are on the honor system. I did not know that until I was paying at the end and they asked me. Really? Coffee refills. I don't even think Waffle House does that. (Again, Urban Cannibals reached out and contends the refills are because they sell good coffee and not Folgers)

Je Ne Sais Quoi - (4.3/5/0)
Before I knew about paying for coffee refills I was really enjoying this place. It was super smoky inside and I think my shirt still smells like kitchen smoke. I actually like that, adds character. The sandwich itself also had some intrigue and sticking with the smoking theme it was the smoked Gouda that did it for me. I tried giving some to Danny but he did not seem as interested.

Taste - (8.6/10.0)
Even though the horseradish did not have kick, it did have a great taste. The rye was nice and toasty and Danny helped me out with the crusts. Grilling a sandwich can really be hit or miss but in this instance it really added value. It brought everything together and spread the smoky Gouda throughout. Here is Lisa going in for a bite.

Overall - (23.8/30.0)
Just checked my math here because it seems like a low score for a good sandwich but I guess that is the way it is. There have been others like this on the blog that are not much to look at and are expensive but do taste great. I would come back to this place and plan to (they have other Reubens on the menu) but not sure if I would order the Urban again.

 Urban Cannibals Bodega & Bites on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Episode VIII: Goldberg's (ATL)

First off, Сәлем! to my readers in Kazakhstan. Web analytics are a great thing and it makes me happy to see folks from around the world checking the blog. This week we checked out Goldberg's Bagel and Deli in Buckhead. The place was packed when we walked in, always a good sign.

Brooklyn Reuben (Regular)"Lean Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss Cheese and Homemade Russian Dressing on Rye Bread"

Appearance - (2.9/5.0)
Not the most impressive thing to look at on a plate. Again, those toothpicks! There was a stray toothpick in MA's fries. Scary stuff. Also, check out that rogue fry on top of the sandwich. The pickle, I must say, is impressive and saved it from a lower score. Most of all, there is no marbling on the rye!

Quality of Ingredients - (4.8/5.0)
Maybe the folks at Goldberg's are not big on looks but they are on quality. The bread did not have marbling but did had great rye flavor thanks to the very visible Caraway seeds. The corned beef was tender and juicy. The dressing did taste homemade and mixed well with the flavor of the Swiss cheese.

Price - (3.9/5.0)
$10.95, Yikes! I guess this is the price you pay to have lunch Inside-The-Perimeter. It was a nice place and the portion was reasonable but for $10.95 they could have stacked a bit more beef on there. People seem to have no problem paying the price; we waited 20 minutes for a table. The guy in front of us in line knew the waitstaff by name.

Je Ne Sais Quoi - (4.7/5.0)
At first I was disappointed to not have marbling on the rye but the Caraway seeds made me quickly forget. What are those little things? Little flavor accents. What really boosted the JNSQ score was the fact that after the first bite, the sandwich was steaming. It was cold in there so that probably helped but it just looked like a pile of steaming goodness. I apologize for failing to document with a picture but I had my hands full with Danny Boy.

Taste - (9.7/10.0)
This sandwich really came together for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it! Almost all of the bites were perfect bites with a little bit of each component present. Each piece played its part. The taste more than made up for the look.

Overall - (26.0/30.0)
Getting to discover a sandwich and a place like this is what I had in mind when I started the blog. It was a classic Reuben with excellent execution. They did not have a high-chair, only a booster seat that Danny did not like. So I ate my Reuben one-handed. Other than that, I had a great time and  I will come back for sure to try the other variations of the Reuben.

Goldberg's Bagel Company & Deli on Urbanspoon Goldbergs Bagel Company & Deli