When I announced that I was on a quest to find the best reuben sandwiches around, I got a few suggestions of places to try, but none as unusual as that which came from my friend Dave Awl.
He suggested something called "The Radical Reuben," from the Chicago Diner, at Halsted and Roscoe. Why is this reuben sandwich so "radical"? Well, it's because the sandwich is made without what many would call a key ingredient of the reuben, corned beef. They do it this way there because the Chicago Diner is a non-meat serving eatery.
I was the epitome of skepticism when I got Dave's suggestion -- my grin upside down, my eyes rolled, the whole bit -- but I decided what the heck, I like disaster movies, so it could be fun to try what was certain to be a disaster of a sandwich. It could make good copy.
Well, I was shocked, but not by how bad this reuben was. In short, I've got to say that meat or not, it is one of the best reubens I've ever had -- maybe among the top two or three at this point.
The bread on this sandwich is marbled rye, as it should be, and on it are onions, peppers, sauerkraut, non-dairy "cheese," vegan Thousand Island dressing and the "meat" is seitan. Additionally, the Chicago Diner, though they don't serve meat, is still a Chicago place, so they don't skimp on anything, not to mention the "meat-like" product. The seitan is cooked as well as it could be and there's not much difference in taste between it and corned beef (of course there is no beef fat to deal with, which is also a nice touch). It's a hearty sandwich that tastes great. If you can get past the idea, especially in a town once known as "hog butcher to the world," of eating a vegetarian reuben, you're in for quite a surprising treat. I definitely will be back for this reuben again.
Also, the Chicago Diner, in a "Reubens for Wildlife" campaign, is donating $1 from every one of these reubens sold through August 31 to Gulf Coast wildlife rescue organizations. Could this sandwich get anymore animal-friendly?