For my first formal foray into the search for a satisfying reuben sandwich, I didn't venture far from the Sun-Times River North offices. Just down the block from the Sun-Times is Steve's Deli Chicago, on Hubbard Street, between Orleans and Kingsbury. This is one of two Steve's Delis, the other in its native Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Steve's is a clean, bright, sun-filled (when the sun is out) spot when you can dine in or get carry out from. The menu is pretty extensive, and all the stuff that you look for in a real deli -- knishes, kugel, kreplach, latkes, blintzes, lox and gefilte fish -- are there. But what I went there for was the reuben.
At $10, you think, this sandwich had better be good, and I can't say it's not. I realize that $10 isn't that much for a good deli sandwich -- but if you have any skepticism about the deal, you won't feel a whole lot better when the sandwich arrives, with a couple pickle slices, but that's it. You want fries? That's $3.79 extra. Want a latke? $3.29. Cole slaw? $2.79. No, I did not order the cole slaw, but has anyone ever had a side of slaw that was worth paying for, let alone $2.79? I did order a latke, which looked as disappointing when it arrived at the table as the sandwich did. There was little texture to it, no nooks and crannies, just a sort of uniform, not quite distinctive-looking latke. The taste was OK, but I really like a latke that has character, which this one did not.
But on to the sandwich. Despite looking rather ordinary at first, Steve's reuben was a solid hit on all counts. You can get "extra lean" corned beef for a dollar more, but I cannot see how that could be any leaner than the regular beef in this sandwich. The beef was sliced extra thin, like I like it, it was warm and there were layers upon layers of it inside the sandwich, which, though it was packed with melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing, stayed together and did not fall apart in my hands as I ate it. (Of course, I began by opening up the sandwich and peeling away a few layers of the beef to eat by fork before grabbing the sandwich with my hands, which may have made it more manageable.)
The melted cheese did not stick to the beef or the bread -- it was a solid mass of its own -- which I thought a bit strange, but in no way did that affect my enjoyment of the sandwich. I imagine it's a tough balancing act to put enough dressing on a reuben to make it tasty but to hold back so that the diner doesn't get dressing all over hands, chin, or worse, their clothes, as they eat the sandwich, but Steve's manages to balance that quite well. There was just enough dressing on this reuben and none of it strayed from the sandwich. That pretty much sums up what I liked best about Steve's reuben -- they didn't skimp on the ingredients, and though there was enough of everything, none of the ingredients strayed from my hands as I ate it. The latke could have been more interesting, though. I can't complain much about the price, especially because I may not have even given it a moment's thought had it been a couple dollars more, but with a side "included."
I'm really intrigued by the rest of Steve's menu and I imagine I'll be back to taste my way through it. A pretty good sandwich.