Thursday, December 15, 2016

Episode XLIX: City Café Dallas (DAL)

I am a food blogger, not a Foodie. I would love to be a Foodie, but with a 5 year-old at home it is next to impossible.  When it’s Danny’s turn to pick where we’re going, chances are we end up at Chick-fil-a.

City Café in Dallas might be just the place to ease me back into the Foodie scene. It boasts menu items like Shishito peppers and Scallopini Milanese (neither of which is recognized by spell check in MS Word) as well as Bliss potatoes, and Shallot vinaigrette.

All of that will have to wait because there is an $18 Reuben on the menu.

Deli Style Reuben
“Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss Cheese, and Whole Grain Mustard with French Fries & Kosher Dill Pickle Spear”

Appearance – (4.3/5.0)
The first impression is good with clean, crisp lines on the plate. I had a good view of the chef at the window and he seemed to meticulously wipe the edges of each plate before it went out. He must have been ok with the mustard playing peek-a-boo out of that little hole in the bread. The coloring around the hole suggests that maybe the peek-a-boo was initially an eruption that was scaled back for service.

The bread looks perfectly grilled/toasted. If you start from the edges, you see a healthy burn that transitions to soft white, then a golden brown in the middle. Someone had their eye on that bread the entire time.

Quality of Ingredients – (4.7/5.0)
When I heard we were going to this place for lunch, of course the first thing I did was check the menu online to see if they had a Reuben. The description from the online menu matches the sandwich that was served and is what I included above. Here is what the menu at the restaurant had in print, “Pastrami, Rye Bread, Sauerkraut, Swiss Cheese, and House Dressing with French Fries & Kosher Dill Pickle Spear”.

Here is the comparison:
In-person print menu
Pastrami, Rye Bread, Sauerkraut, Swiss Cheese, and House Dressing with French Fries & Kosher Dill Pickle Spear”.

Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss Cheese, and Whole Grain Mustard with French Fries & Kosher Dill Pickle Spear”

This is a different group of ingredients and I am really curious as to how, when, and why these changes were made.  Have they not gotten around to changing the print menu? The print menu is a standard Reuben. (Corned beef is the classic but Pastrami is an accepted “standard alternative” for lack of a better term).  It looks like they decided to scrap the Rye in favor of Sourdough, go back to the classic Corned Beef, and get rid of the House Dressing to introduce whole grain mustard. Fascinating!

Whole grain mustard is a first for this blog and I had mentally prepared by myself for a mustard Reuben, only to get to the restaurant and find a standard Reuben on the menu. Then the mustard Reuben shows up at the table. Maybe they heard I was coming and were trying to mess with me. This is the burden of food blogger fame.
All of that to say, the whole grain mustard was excellent. The Corned Beef was tender and juicy but the sauerkraut was noticeably muted and tame.

Price – (3.8/5.0)
All week I had in my mind that I was going to eat an $18 Reuben.  That is real money.  When I was living the bachelor life in Boston I used to compare my discretionary expenses to how many burritos I could buy instead. A solid burrito from Anna's Taqueria back in the day was $7.50. So, if I wanted to take a cab back from the bars to Kenmore Square that might be, with tip, ~$15 or two burritos. Was the cab ride worth two burritos, or would I be better off walking home and treating myself to Anna’s the next day? I did this all the time to help make decisions.  I don’t eat at Anna’s anymore but I still try to use this thinking. Today I might think of a monthly payment to Netflix or a trip to Sonic to get Danny ice-cream but the process is the same. Using this logic, I don’t think this Reuben was worth $18.

This is a nice place that is ideal for a business lunch.  It has double white table cloth, good service, and you even get your ketchup served in a personalized gravy boat.  They also should get credit for making what can be a very messy sandwich into something you can eat in front of your boss. All of this seems to be what you are paying for because the sandwich itself falls short of the price tag.

Did I mention there was no pickle spear on the plate? I don’t even like pickle spears but for $18, I am going to want to see it.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (3.2/5.0)
This place was pretty clean cut and mystery free. The biggest curveball was probably the jalapeños in the calamari.  The single biggest JNSQ killer for this Reuben was the Sourdough bread.  A strong caraway seeded Rye is a risk, so when you see plain bread that is perfectly toasted it signals you are entering a safe space.

This rings especially true because they showed their hand! We all know that at some point they had Rye and decided to do away with it and it didn’t stop there. They got rid of the dressing and went with mustard.  I think the classic Reuben was too much to handle for the business lunch crowd and they had to dial the JNSQ way down.

Taste – (8.8/10.0)
Putting aside the menu confusion, it was a good sandwich.  The sauerkraut was not strong and it could have used that acidic kick.  In my opinion, this is another effort to transform the Reuben into something you can put on the tame business lunch menu.  The saving grace was really the Corned Beef and the mustard. The texture of all of the little whole grains was a new Reuben experience I really enjoyed. 

Overall – (24.8/30.0)
Would I order it again? Yes, but not the next time I go. There are other things on the menu I would like to try before I go back. I also want to hear the story of why they made the changes.

Sometime the scoring rubric does not suit a Reuben well and that is the case here. It was not a bad Reuben, but a risk-averse product is going to have a tough time racking up a high score here.