101 years after the Reuben was declared “alive” in Omaha, New Yorkers are still maintaining that their version is a zombie to the real McCoy.
The delicious combination of corned beef, sauerkraut, creamy swiss and a Russian dressing (universally known as the Reuben) is credited by New Yorkers to be invented by Arnold Reuben founder of Reuben’s Restaurant and Delicatessen. The Reuben Report felt it was high time to get some personal perspectives from two of the players in the food industry, representing both sides of the story. So, on the Omaha anniversary of the birth of the Reuben we spoke with Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop in New York City and the Crescent Moon, in Omaha, NE. Here’s how they both feel about this cross country competition…
Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop on 5th Avenue in New York City is a favorite stop for the popular Reuben. Owned by Joshua Konecky and his wife, Bonnie Taylor, Eisenberg’s is a classic old New York style diner, which opened in 1929. The establishment is one of the last of its kind in the area. The restaurant serves a corned beef Reuben as well as a pastrami and turkey variation. The chicken couplet called “The Jake” is a vision of the sandwich recreated by their son and also a big hit with customers. Joshua Konecky said the Reuben is an easy to make hot sandwich and its popularity derives from the flavor created between the Russian dressing and sauerkraut.
“(The Reuben) is a little salty, a little sweet and a little messy. Over all it’s a delicious sandwich,” he said, acknowledging his city’s claim to the birthplace of the sandwich.
Out west in Omaha, Nebraska the story goes a little differently.
The Blackstone Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska has been credited for the invention by Reuben Kulakofsky, during one of his weekly poker matches, held at that very hotel. The sandwich, of course, was named after the man himself. The hotel has been gone for over 40 years, though the building remains and many Rueben enthusiasts still recall its history.
The Crescent Moon Omaha’s Original Alehouse, located across the street from the old hotel, is known for the sandwich, which has been a menu favorite for quite sometime, according to Crescent Moon Alehouse owner Bill Baburek. The food is so beloved, that each year Crescent Moon holds a Reuben Festival, which consists of a weeklong celebration of “all things Reuben.” The menu classic Blackstone Reuben will be featured during the festival along with Reuben pizzas, Reuben calzones, Reuben burritos, Reuben burgers, Reuben egg rolls and many more.
“Our Reuben options expand quite a bit,” Baburek said. “There’s always been this long running dispute over which city originated (the Reuben) and I think Omaha being a much smaller city than New York City – we don’t have all the things that they have to offer but there is a lot of pride that it was invented here at the Blackstone Hotel,” he added.
Crescent Moon also changes the way it cooks the favored meat by smoking it along with the sauerkraut.
“We’ll serve approximately 2,500 “ruebenesque” items throughout the week, we have a lot of people,” Baburek said.
The sandwich is offered on thousands of American restaurant menus and celebrated for its bold list of ingredients, including corned beef and sauerkraut and the Report predicts that 99 years from now, the 200th anniversary will also be subject to debate.