The kraut-er in the rye: Five (more) local Reubens, graded

A Reuben from Zeppelins, LV’s favorite from the 2021 Reuben round-up. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

After publishing the original Reuben review in Little Village’s March 2021 issue, I received a few comments aghast that I had not featured a Reuben from downtown Iowa City’s popular Irish pub, Micky’s. I regret my error!! I’m here to attempt to make good and have rounded up a few others for a new class of Reubens.

There will be unfortunate omissions (looking at you, Irish Democrat) because let’s face it, a ton of restaurants serve one, and it might not come as a surprise that one can burn out on a sandwich most would reserve for “every once in a while.” It is with that knowledge that I rescind any commitments to reviewing corned beef Reubens again in 2023. Instead, I will focus on the tempeh or otherwise vegetarian “Reubens” in our area (has this article turned me vegetarian? Time will tell), so if you have a favorite or even a distant second favorite tempeh Reuben, please send recommendations my way.

Until then, and without further ado, I present LV’s Official 2022 Corned Beef Reuben Review.

Daisy’s Garage

Daisy’s Garage, 5240 Edgewood Rd NE Suite 100, Cedar Rapids

When I pulled into the Daisy’s Garage parking lot (literally one mini-strip mall over from 2021’s highest-rated Reuben at Zepplin’s), I was weary from a long day — I admit it — but even with that in mind, I cannot not say this was a great Reuben. I just can’t vouch for it. Others have done so! It was recommended for this very article, so someone out there has had a good one. But the one I got had an unidentifiably off flavor, the rye was soggy, the corned beef seemed to be from a package-sliced deli loaf, the sauce (served on the side) was gelatinous and lacking zing. With a roughly 70:30 meat-to-Swiss-and-sauerkraut ratio, the kraut never even had a chance to sing. The sandwich had heft, I will give Daisy’s that. Order this and you’ll leave full. Points docked for using Styrofoam: C-

Hudson’s Southside Tap

Hudson’s Southside Tap, 482 Hwy 1 W, Iowa City

Many have told me the Hudson’s Reuben is fantastic, so I put ‘er on the list because many don’t often lie (not remotely true, though the Reuben was pretty good). Hudson’s was hefty, in part because it was served between Texas toast-sized slices of marble rye. I can understand how a nice thick marble would add appeal for some, but for me, the sandwich lost a bit of ground due to the pillowy texture and the slightly overbearing sweetness of the bread. While we’re on the subject of sweet, if there was a sauce, I cannot be sure, because there was little tang apart from the sauerkraut; my Hudson’s Rebuen definitely had a mild, sweet flavor. I did enjoy that the sauerkraut was thoughtfully incorporated into layers of house-made corned beef brisket (at a roughly 65:35 meat-to-Swiss-and-sauerkraut ratio). This meant no bite went unkrauted, regardless of the ratio, and that certainly counts for something. Points docked for Styrofoam. B+

Micky’s Irish Pub

Micky’s Irish Pub, 11 S Dubuque St, Iowa City

I especially regretted this 2021 omission after trying one a few months after publication and thinking, humbly, “This would have been the winner had it been an original contender!” I still think it could. (Though it’s hard to say without trying the 2021 set again and I simply can’t commit — not this year, readers!) When you order a Reuben at Micky’s Irish Pub, do not come wary of surprises, gimmicks, add-ons or any other attempts to woo favor apart from a promise, a Claddagh ring if you will, to stick with the classics. The brisket (about 55:45 meat to Swiss/kraut) was corned, the Thousand Island was tangy (and served on the side — no problem, unless you’re eating one-handed), the Swiss was effectively melted to hold ingredients in place, the kraut was sour, the sauce was pink and the marble rye was crisp enough to crunch on the way in. But you know I’m docking points for Styrofoam — alas. A

Pat and Fran’s Irish Pub

Pat and Fran’s Irish Pub, 808 5th St Ste 8, Coralville

A classic Reuben on a moderately crunchy marble rye with an altogether nice balance of goods. I personally like a lot of kraut and even a little less meat than your average Joe, so I appreciated that Pat and Fran’s sandwich maintained a respectably balanced (in my opinion) 50:50 ratio of meat to Swiss and sauerkraut. The Thousand Island which came on the sandwich was tangy, perhaps even zangy — and unexpectedly so, as it didn’t shout in Pantone Salmon like so many others (I thought it had come without sauce!), but instead more of a Pantone “Tuft Bush,” blending modestly with the creamy Swiss like a shy lass. Portions of brisket draped over the sides but not so much that the sandwich become an embarrassing mess. All in all, this sandwich held up — in construction and in flavor. And baby, you know I like it when it comes in paper. A

Pub 217

Pub 217, 217 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids

I was absolutely, completely and utterly ready to abandon my commitment and throw in the towel on reviewing local Reubens when I pulled up to Pub 217 to pick up a sandwich at an acquaintance’s recommendation. I had just completed an 8.25 mile run and the thought of spending any time with corned beef was enough to send me over the edge. But when I opened the box and inspected the contents, taking, with some reservation, a generous (ravenous) bite off a corner, I remembered: Fuck. I love Reubens. This one is good, too. A nice brisket and plenty of it, a lot of kraut (more generous than most which is a selling point for me) and the sauce was legitimately tasty. I never know whether it’s made in house or not (could be?), and I guess I don’t really need to know if it adds to the sandwich and helps carry the flavor. Could the Swiss have been more lovingly melted? Sure. But good enough. Points docked for being served in non-biodegradable Styrofoam. A-