One of the most common questions readers ask me is also one of the most impossible questions for me to answer:
Who makes the best Reuben sandwich in Wichita?
I know Wichita has good ones because people have told me. But I can’t confirm, mainly because sauerkraut is one of those foods I just can’t tolerate. Raw cabbage – great. Cabbage pickled in brine? No thanks. (For the record, I do love every other ingredient that makes up a Reuben – corned beef, Russian dressing, Swiss cheese and rye bread.)
Reubens, whose main ingredient is Irish in heritage, are actually an American invention. Though no one’s exactly sure who made the first Reuben, many stories credit its invention to German immigrant Arnold Reuben, who owned a deli in New York City. Other sandwich lore credits Lithuanian-born grocer Reuben Kulakofsky for coming up with the recipe at his store in Omaha.
Recently, reader Tony Scarpelli asked me where Wichita’s best Reuben was made, so I posed the question to other readers on my Facebook page. They enthusiastically nominated nearly 20 different local sandwiches. But eight of them got multiple mentions.
Here’s an unscientific guide to Wichita’s best Reuben sandwiches, based on my informal poll.
1. The Anchor, 1109 E. Douglas: By far, the most Reuben fans named the sandwich at the Anchor as their favorite. Owner Schane Gross says it has been on the list of top 10 best sellers since she opened the restaurant 12 years ago. The way her kitchen prepares the sandwich, Gross said, makes it palatable even to people who don’t usually like the Reuben. They make their own corned beef, which is slow-roasted then hand-shredded rather than sliced.
“We put it on the grill with the sauerkraut, which has been squeezed, so they both get chopped and grilled together,” Gross said. “People who don’t favor sauerkraut still like our Reuben because it’s not necessarily overpowering.”
The Anchor finishes the sandwich with melted Swiss cheese, Russian dressing on grilled marble rye.
2. The Artichoke, 811 N. Broadway: Several readers also mentioned the Reuben at the ’Choke, where owner Patrick Audley insists that the secret is “the luck of the Irish on your side.” But his wife, Molly, is more matter-of-fact about what makes the sandwich so good: extra Thousand Island dressing. The bar, famous for its sandwich menu, starts with quality sliced corned beef, she said, then adds tangy sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and sweet Thousand Island dressing. It’s piled on light rye bread, then grilled.
“We are known for that,” Molly Audley said. “People will call and say, ‘We’ve heard you have really good Reuben sandwiches,’ and we do. One thing I will say about any sandwich is don’t be afraid to use a little extra sauce.”
3. Doo-Dah Diner, 206 E. Kellogg: Chef Patrick Shibley was inspired to make his decadent, open-faced Reuben after watching an episode of Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” said wife Timirie Shibley, and it’s one of the diner’s most popular sandwiches. The kitchen cuts the cabbage for the sauerkraut when the sandwich is ordered, then puts it on top of a generous serving of corned beef topped with homemade Thousand Island dressing on grilled marble rye. Timirie, however, says she always ask for hers closed faced. “I order a ‘lid’ because I love the butter-toasted crunchy rye bread,” she said.
4. Deano’s Grill & Tapworks, 9747 E. 21st St.: Deano’s slow-braises its corned beef, shreds it and pan fries it along with the sauerkraut then piles it on rye bread with Swiss cheese and a house-made Reuben sauce.
5. Public at the Brickyard, 129 N. Rock Island: Readers also pointed to Public’s Reuben, and it’s described as being made with Kansas City corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss and Russian dressing. It’s served on marble rye with a choice of side.
6. Le Monde, 602 N. West St.: Though it’s a Mediterranean restaurant, Le Monde makes a great Reuben, several readers said. Their version is made on dark rye, and the corned beef is sliced extra thin. It’s also topped with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing.
7. Bella Luna, 2132 N. Rock Road and 2441 N. Maize Road: Another restaurant where you’d expect to get a shawarma sandwich apparently also makes a killer Reuben, according to several readers. It has the same ingredients as most – corned beef, Swiss, marble rye – but instead of Thousand Island dressing, its sauce is a house-made remoulade.
8. Arby’s, several Wichita locations: Yes, it’s fast food. But several readers said that Arby’s makes a decent Reuben sandwich. The chain’s website say it’s “inspired by the New York standard” and is made with thin-sliced corned beef, Big Eye Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut on marble rye.
Other Reubens Wichita loves
Several other restaurants’ Reubens were mentioned. Among them:
▪ The Coneburg Inn, 904 Peabody, Peabody
▪ Neighbors Restaurant & Bar, 2315 W. 21st St.
▪ Jason’s Deli, 2000 N. Rock Road and 7447 W. 21st St.
▪ Fox and Hound, 1421 Waterfront
▪ Wichita Pizza Co., 1520 S. Webb Road
▪ Nancy’s A-Maize-N Sandwiches, 5125 N. Maize Road, Maize
▪ Harry’s Uptown, 3023 E. Douglas
▪ Merle’s Place, 440 N. Seneca
▪ Jimmie’s Diner, 2121 N. Tyler Road, 3111 N. Rock Road, 1519 S. George Washington