Thousand Island dressing for success: The Reuben review 2023

You know, the Reuben is one of those sandwiches that you can probably find on at least half of the menus in America, and it will be, in many cases, fine. Pretty good even, if you’re into that sort of thing. But they are rarely special.

And so, readers, we’re here to take you on another quest (year three!) to find the most worthy among them. Few meet our standards completely: the preferred ratio of ingredients, the appropriate texture of the bread, the influence of sauce. But we are on a multi-year mission to masticate them all, separating the wheat from chaff.

Be assured, there have been tests along the way. Line cooks with tender skill in the art of Reuben making may move on, only to be replaced by those who bear a distaste for our beloved sandwich, and serve little more than lukewarm contempt on a platter (with fries!) and cast an icy shadow upon the legacy of a once-worthy contender (which remains nameless, for now). Yet we at Little Village persist, because we hope.

We hope, but we are tired, and so, as stated in 2022’s Reuben review, I rescind all commitments to serving as lead Reuben reviewer in 2023. And though our sandwich standards may differ somewhat, our commitment compares, and as a woman of my word, I have passed the baton to faithful Reuben relay runner (and fellow half-marathoner) Amir Prellberg. O, connoisseur of corned beef, take it away.

Jordan Sellergren, Little Village Art Director



A Reuben sandwich from Marco’s Grilled Cheese. — Amir Prellberg/Little Village

I’ve been trying to find as many Reuben sandwiches as I can that haven’t already been covered. In my search I came across Marco’s Grilled Cheese. I hadn’t tried their Reuben but have been a fan of their grilled cheeses in the past, so I had to give it a try. The sandwich was fine appearance-wise, but I was a little disappointed because it wasn’t cut in half and the bread seemed a little dark and overcooked.

Overall, a fine sandwich — the bread wasn’t soggy and it had that familiar Reuben taste. I definitely wasn’t blown away. I’m a fan of a pile of sauerkraut, but this one had it mixed with the beef, which is fine, just not what I’m looking for. They also served the Thousand Island dressing on the side, which I was not a fan of. I think the sandwich could’ve been improved by a little more corned beef and a little more sauerkraut — and a lower price. The sandwich came in at $10.07 (including tax), which did not include a side or a drink. C

Pop’s BBQ

Pop's BBQ's March special is a Reuben sandwich. - Photo by Amir Prellberg
Pop’s BBQ’s March special is a Reuben sandwich. — Amir Prellberg/Little Village

Following a suggestion from Little Village Art Director Jordan Sellergren (who swears she was goaded into making it by a post on Facebook), I went to Pop’s BBQ to try their March special Reuben. The sandwich looked good. Properly cooked marble rye bread. Sandwich cut in half. A good amount of sauerkraut and dressing. The meat was cut a little thicker than I’m accustomed to in a Reuben, but was so tender I had no trouble biting through.

The first mouthful hit me with something else unexpected. The sign at the restaurant clearly states the corned beef was smoked, but that typically subtle barbecue smokiness still hit surprisingly hard. While I don’t have any problems with the smokey taste in general, I had a hard time reconciling it with a Reuben sandwich. A little more Thousand Island dressing would help as well — you don’t want it drowned but I like to have that flavor with every bite. For the March special Reuben, you’re getting the sandwich and side of fries for $15.89. B-

Irish Democrat

The Irish Democrat's Reuben sandwich. - Photo by Amir Prellberg
The Irish Democrat’s Reuben sandwich. — Amir Prellberg/Little Village

Glancing at the Irish Democrat’s sandwich, you see a classic Reuben. A darker marble rye bread holding together layers of corned beef and sauerkraut. The beef is sliced slightly too thick for my liking, but it’s not a deal breaker by any means. That being said, with my first bite, I experienced that ever-so-annoying situation where you pull all the meat out while you’re attempting to bite through it. I don’t factor this into my ratings, but it’s something that should be known.

It was a decent Reuben. The corned beef was above average, the sauerkraut was good and it had the correct kraut-to-beef ratio. However, the Thousand Island dressing was just okay and the bread was a smidge soggy, which could’ve been due to getting the sandwich to-go. Overall, a decent Reuben with a not-terrible price of $11.77 (side included). B-

Lucky Penny

The Lucky Penny has our favorite Reuben sandwich of the 2023 Reuben review. — Amir Prellberg/Little Village

Lucky Penny is located in Hiawatha and I’m a regular for their “Grilled Cheese of the Day,” but I’d never tried their Reuben. I was not disappointed! At first glance, you see a standard sandwich. Marble rye bread grilled properly, cut in half, with all the layers of sauerkraut, corned beef, cheese and Thousand Island dressing clearly visible.

In my first bite I tasted healthy amounts of beef and sauerkraut with the right amount of dressing on crisp, properly cooked bread. The beef wasn’t tough and you could bite through it without the annoyance of accidentally pulling all of the meat from the sandwich. I got a taste of everything in each bite. The restaurant could probably add another slice or two of beef, but overall the sandwich was quite good. I was very happy with the price: $10.70 for the sandwich and a good-sized side (I chose tater tots over fries, vegetables or soup) is a big plus to me. A-