Saturday, April 26, 2014

Episode XXVII: Brambleton Deli (ROA)

When you work for an airline and someone asks, “What are you doing this weekend?” you can get some crazy answers.   Say "Roanoke, Virginia" and it turns some heads. “Isn’t that the settlement that disappeared?” “What in the world is there?”  There is quite a bit actually.

My wife’s little sister is a second year medical resident in the ‘Noke and the rest of the siblings all decided to visit her the same weekend. The Salukes are an eclectic bunch to say the least.  Four very distinct personalities and looks to them, their significant others even more so. The one thing everyone agreed on was that we had to hit a Reuben in Roanoke.  After almost hitting a deer on our way, we arrived at the Brambleton Deli.

Classic Reuben
“Corned beef with melted Swiss cheese, Sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing on grilled rye”

Appearance – (4.1/5.0)
No toothpicks! Think about it, the Reuben already has natural binding agents like Thousand Island and melted Swiss cheese. The sandwich held together just fine without the toothpicks. It looks like a little sports car with a low center of gravity. You couldn’t roll the thing over if you tried.
The main components of the sandwich are visible from each angle. The bright color of the Thousand Island is really the only accent on the plate.  You have a look for the slight char from the grill on the meat but this is a good sign. That is how you know it was made to order. The fries look less than exciting but I can deal with it.

Quality Of Ingredients – (3.7/5.0)
Everything on this Reuben seemed to be “store bought”. The bread probably came out of a bag. I would be shocked to hear it was baked on premises.  The Thousand Island also came straight from a bottle and the meat was uniform in dimensions.  This tells me it was also store bought. The Sauerkraut was fine but did not taste homemade. No one makes homemade Swiss so I will give them a pass there.  This is not to say store bought is poor quality, but it does not compare to some of the great stuff we have seen on this blog before.

Price – (3.9/5.0)
Nice to see an $8 Reuben.  I think this is fair, but not a great price given the list of ingredients. I do not remember how much the beer was because my sister-in-law unexpectedly picked up the tab for the whole table.  Thanks, Emily!

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (3.8/5.0)
The score would have been lower if not for the company at hand and the day we were having.   We had all just come from a beautiful hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Central Virginia. We also got a nice table outside on the deck but in the shade.  It had been a pretty good day and a Reuben made it that much better.   It will be hard to crack 4.0 with Costco brand fries and store bought ingredients.

Taste – (8.1/10.0)
It was a very good, not great, Reuben.  Despite humble ingredients you can still put out a good sandwich. What can turn average ingredients into a good sandwich is execution and I have to give it to them on that. They charred the meat just right, melted the cheese thoroughly, spread the right amount of dressing, and didn’t overdo it on the Sauerkraut. Any missteps here and this could have gone the other way in a hurry. 

Overall – (23.6/30.0)
Would I order it again, yes, but not the next time.  There were some other good entrees on the table I would want to try first.  This place has potential and could easily boost their score with better ingredients and a bit more love.  The freezer fries have got to go.  Nothing says "I don’t love you" like uniform frozen fries. Hand cut fries are so easy to do, cheaper, and taste better. There are some talented people in the back and a friendly wait staff up front but they need some help from the sourcing manager and owner.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Episode XXVI: Ri Ra (ATL)

One of the greatest things about Atlanta is that it’s an ACC city. I mean that in the literal sense because we have Georgia Tech, although you would never know it walking around town.  SEC polos, hats, license plates, and doggie t-shirts outnumber the ACC gear by probably 3:1.  As a UVA graduate I appreciate having Tech here because that means I get to see my Hoos frequently.  This beautiful spring Saturday brought the UVA Men’s Tennis team to town and I wanted to see if I could get a Reuben before the match. 
Props to RiRa and their PR team because when I typed in “Pub Midtown Atlanta” they are the first thing that popped up. I checked their menu and sure enough, they had a Reuben.

Publican Reuben
“house brined corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss, Marie Rose, grilled rye”

Appearance – (4.5/5.0)
Bravo! Just a little bit of effort on the presentation goes a long way. I like the long plate and the bread has an appealing brown crisp edge. Grilled rye can quickly turn into burned rye but this looks like they got it just right. This side shot looks even better with all of the Swiss coming out but wait! They missed a crumb.  

I have seen enough cooking shows to know that someone back there is supposed to take a napkin and clean the edge of the plate before it goes out.

Quality Of Ingredients – (4.6/5.0)
The house brined corned beef was no joke. The bartender told me they brine it for 36 hours in-house.  I know I have lauded other rye with a nice marble pattern but a good marble does not always mean good bread. This rye was absent the marble but did have the visible Caraway seeds. It was quality bread that was grilled well and held its own. The Marie rose tasted like it was made from scratch from high quality ingredients.  What goes into a Marie Rose sauce? I couldn’t tell you, but I like it.

Price – (4.0/5.0)
An even ten bucks for this Reuben and I think that is fair. The sandwich size is about right for that price and there were more fries than I could eat. What I did not like was six bucks for a pint of Stella. That made me feel like I was back in Boston.  I did appreciate the EPL games they had showing at the bar; however,  they do not have Gol TV much to the disappointment of a German couple at the bar hoping to catch a Bundesliga game.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (4.2/5.0)
This was kind of a strange place to be at ~11:30 AM on a Saturday morning. The bar had a few soccer fans and the rest of the place was packed with what looked like a young Asian business professionals networking event.  Couple that with the dim Irish pub lighting and it was interesting for sure.  I would love to come back to this place on a weekend night. You cannot beat the location right in the heart of midtown and it is big enough where you could get a good size group. Actually, $6 pints may push this to the last stop of the night where you just order a club soda before you call Uber and enjoy the crazy people around you.

Taste – (9.4/10.0)
The beef in this Reuben looked like it could have gone into a brisket sandwich back home in Texas. It was not thin deli slices but rather big rustic cuts of meat. It still had the classic corned beef taste but the bigger cuts really let the meaty flavor come through.  I think the bigger chunks also keep more of the natural juices in the meat. The Swiss cheese was plentiful and great but the Marie Rose sauce was subtle. It was a little pleasant surprise each time you would get a taste.

Overall – (26.7/30.0)
Would I order it again? Yes. This was a solo trip so I don’t have anything else to immediately compare it to. The rest of the menu did look great but if there is a solid Reuben then there is little incentive to try anything else. The first time I go to anyplace that has a Reuben I will try it. If it is not good then I will explore other opportunities the next time. The risk to reward ratio for a repeat Reuben is optimal.

On a certain level this is what the Reuben Ranger is all about, mitigating risk for Reuben lovers.  Ordering a Reuben has a high opportunity cost because if you are somewhere that serves a Reuben you are foregoing either a burger or a club sandwich of some kind.  This risk is magnified by the fact that Reubens can really be hit or miss. The coefficient of variation on a Reuben has to be bigger than that of a pub burger. If I can help my readers avoid costly mistakes or even better realize gains with a reduced risk profile then I am doing my job. I am here to serve you.
Ri Ra Irish Pub on Urbanspoon