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Reubens are showing up on all types of menus right now. And not just in sandwich form (though there are plenty of those, too). There are also reuben-inspired knishes, hot dogs, and even pasta dishes.
DGS Delicatessen offers a fairly traditional version with a combination of corned beef and pastrami, both of which are brined for a week and sliced by hand. “We like the cleanness of the corned beef—there’s a lot of mustard seed in that braise—against the smokiness and the depth of the pastrami,” says co-owner Nick Wiseman.
DGS also does an eggplant reuben: The eggplant is dusted with the same spices that are used in the pastrami brine (pepper, coriander, fennel), then charred on the grill, giving it a smoky flavor. Both the meat and vegetarian reubens are served on rye with Emmenthaler cheese, sauerkraut, and a Russian dressing made with some pickle brine mixed in.
Meanwhile, Woodward Takeout Food (WTF) offers a duck reuben made with duck confit. The $11 sandwich is served on grilled the with Swiss and gruyere cheeses, red cabbage sauerkraut, and an apple cider rosemary dressing instead of the traditional Thousand Island or Russian dressing.
But perhaps the best we’ve had is A&D‘s $10 reuben, which chef Dan O’Brien makes with beef tongue that’s been brined for 28 days, then slow cooked for eight hours.
Others are putting more of a twist on the classic. Buffalo & Bergen has a reuben knish. Montgomery County food truck Great American Hot Dogs offers the the “Rockville Reuben Dog” made with Hebrew National or Vienna beef sausage topped with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and “angry sauce.” And at the new Eastern Market “speakeasy” Harold Black, chef Johnny Spero has a take on the sandwich with pastrami beef tongue wrapped around a grissini (bread stick).
The most inventive take, however, is Bryan Voltaggio‘s pasta version at Range. The $14 dish consists of a pumpernickel pasta, bits of lamb tongue and baby pickles, and shredded gruyere on top.
So why is the reuben all the rage right now?
“It’s just one of those perfectly engineered sandwiches,” Wiseman says. “You can’t get around it.”
UPDATE: The list goes on! Kangaroo Boxing Club brings word of its reuben with pastrami that’s smoked for a full 24 hours then hand-sliced thick. It’s topped with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and homemade Russian dressing. “The reuben is the most perfect sandwich,” says co-owner Josh Saltzman. “I don’t let people put mayo on pastrami or corned beef, but for some reason Russian dressing is just delicious.”
Got another favorite reuben? Mention it in the comments.
Photos by Jessica Sidman