The Reuben sandwich may be one of the most American foods in existence. With its corned beef, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut piled generously onto rye bread and smothered in dressing, this hearty, flavorful sandwich is found in restaurants and delis across the nation. Despite—or perhaps because of—its popularity, there are conflicting accounts of the Reuben's origin, with dates ranging from 1914 to 1956 and originators running the gamut from chefs and poker players to starlets.
One account holds that the inventor was someone named Reuben Kulakofsky, a grocer in Omaha who is said to have assembled the sandwich during his weekly poker game. Another player, Charles Schimmel, added the sandwich to the menu at Blackstone Hotel, and the recipe spread to restaurants across the globe.
Other stories place the sandwich's origin in New York City with Arnold Reuben, founder of Reuben's Restaurant and Delicatessen. According to Mr. Reuben, he made the sandwich in the hope of impressing an actress who came to the deli. She ate the sandwich, told him that it was the best she'd ever had, and asked that it be named after her. But Mr. Reuben decided to name it Reuben's Special instead. Another account says that it wasn't Mr. Reuben who created the sandwich, but a deli chef named Alfred Sheuing, who made it for Mr. Reuben's son. Still another claim has been made for William Hamerly, who is said to have named the sandwich after Arnold Reuben in recognition of his charitable work.
Regardless of its origins, the Reuben sandwich, with its hearty, tangy flavors, remains a favorite at restaurants across the nation. The next time you crave a savory sandwich, give this American classic a try.
The Hungry Peddler restaurant in La Crosse, WI, is known for its charming, rustic atmosphere and wide selection of exceptional American food. For more information or to make a reservation, call (608) 788-1895, or view their menu online.