Who the Hell is Reuben?

Location: Miller’s East Coast Deli

Sandwich: Reuben

When a person has a popular food item named after them, it is often because they did something special in life. Arnold Palmer hit golf balls really well; he gets lemonade and iced tea. Shirley Temple was a cute as a button child star; she gets a soft drink. But the Reuben sandwich, the ultimate Jewish Deli staple, does not conjure a specific, probably grinning, celebrity that Americans have come to know and love. So before digging in to my delicious, corned beef-stuffed lunch, I needed to know: Who the hell is Reuben?

Could they be the runner-up on season 2 of American Idol, Ruben Studdard? Nah, too goy. Possibly Paul Reubens of Pee Wee Herman fame? We’re getting closer, but still no dice. After a thorough investigation on the sandwich’s history, it seems like the jury is out. Most signs point to Arnold Reuben of Reuben’s Deli in New York, and the account of his claim is hilarious, so I’ll give it to him. Nice job on the sandwich, Mr. Reuben.

Now, the Reuben I had came far away from the delicatessen paradise that is New York City, but I must say that Miller’s East Coast Deli is a bright spot in San Francisco for a tasty Reuben. The entrance has a busy kitchen on the right, a walkway on the left, and a sitting area in the back that was filled with loud conversations, happy customers, and hustling servers. The menu is huge and has its own Reuben section with 5 sandwiches to choose from. There is the Reuben (corned beef), the Rachel (pastrami), or if you are feeling wild, you can get it with turkey, brisket, or turkey pastrami. I had to go with the classic, and it did not disappoint. The caraway rye bread barely held the monstrous mass of meat inside, delicious Russian dressing spilling out of the top, and sauerkraut on the bottom. Hiding behind the sandwich was a pickle, cole slaw, and potato salad.

It took a fight, but I eventually made it through all that corned beef and was deeply satisfied. Polk street is known for it’s night life and bar scene as well as the food stops during the day time (think Swan Oyster and Bob’s doughnuts), but I had never tried Miller’s before. I’m happy to finally have caught up with everyone else who has been coming to this Jewish Deli for the past 15 years. Thank you Miller’s and thank you Arnold Reuben for the way you “just slap stuff together.”

The aftermath.


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