Where St. Louis Jews find their favorite Reuben sandwiches


Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

The Jewishness of certain foods has been and will be debated for generations. Does something have to be “kosher” to be a “Jewish food”? What is Jewish cuisine?

All good questions because within this conversation Jewish pride emerges. It’s with pride that we call latkas, pastrami and matzah ball soup, Jewish food. It’s with pride that we continue to cook from recipes passed down from generation to generation.

It’s with this pride that today we celebrate the Reuben sandwich. To be clear, the traditional Reuben is not kosher given that it combines meat and cheese. That said, many kosher delis will serve a variation on the theme – either corned beef (or pastrami) with sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye bread, so there is an available option, albeit not exactly the same,  for Jews who keep kosher.

In The Morning Light on Monday, we shared the surprising Jewish links to the history of the iconic Reuben sandwich. But, other than the Jewish links to its creation what else makes a Reuben a “Jewish sandwich?”

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Let’s break it down

In the late 1800s in Germany, food shops called delicatessens became very popular. When German Jews immigrated they brought the concept to America. Soon there were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of kosher delis owned by German Jews full of cured meats and pickled vegetables.

It could be said these early delis and their sandwiches overstuffed with corned beef, pastrami and tongue, helped Jews assimilate into the United States.

“The delicatessen is where the children of immigrants became Americans, where the recipes of a global diaspora, inspired by necessity and tradition, came together to form a paradoxical spread of hedonistic abundance: foot-high piles of meat, basins of pickles, heaping scoops of chopped chicken liver, and loaves upon puffy loaves of rye,” wrote Ted Merwin in his book “Pastrami on Rye.”

The meat

The technique of corning –a form of curing — or preserving meat using coarse salt also came to America with immigrants. Deli owners would “corn” brisket, which became known as “corned beef” and became a staple on almost every deli menu.

The dressing

The rise of Thousand Island dressing and the demise of Russian dressing is another story, but a traditional Reuben calls for the latter. According to an unproven legend, Russian dressing was first created in a Jewish deli in New Hampshire, and quickly found itself the go-to condiment of the Reuben.

The Sauerkraut

Per our surprising Jewish links to the history of the iconic Reuben sandwich, this is an accident of good fortune. Reuben Kulakofsky, the sandwich’s namesake, had too much sauerkraut at his market and requested his special sandwich be made with it and corned beef.

The bread

The literal top and bottom of any Reuben, the two pieces that hold the magic together are two slices of rye bread. What makes Rye bread Jewish? Stanly Ginsberg, author of “The Rye Baker” wrote, “The easy answer is that a rye bread is ‘Jewish’ if one could routinely find it on the shelves of the bakeries that anchored Jewish neighborhoods and everywhere else eastern European Jews settled. Usually, that bread was some variation on the light, caraway-seeded ryes or the dark, artificially colored pumpernickel that most people think of as ‘Jewish.’”

OK, so where to find the best Reubens in St. Louis

We asked Jewish Light readers to tell us their favorite places to enjoy Reuben sandwiches in the St. Louis area. (The question was asked prior to Pumpernickles’ closing, and the restaurant did get a high number of responses.) The interesting fact about the responses was that the top restaurant named, Nomad, located in the Dogtown neighborhood, does not actually have a Reuben on its menu.

“While we appreciate the mention, Nomad doesn’t have a Reuben on the menu. Nomad offers a pastrami sandwich, it shares some trademark Ruben features but does not identify as a Reuben,” said owner Tommy Andrew. “A good pastrami sandwich to me is dependent on the quality of the ingredients. Make sure it’s nice rye bread. If we are talking about Reubens, the bread has to be toasted, with good Swiss cheese and house-made sauerkraut. Nomad’s pastrami sandwich differs from a Reuben in that it’s on soft marble rye, house-smoked pastrami, our special sauce and Swiss.”

Where to find a Reuben?

Here is a list, in alphabetical order to where you can find not just a good, but a really great Reuben. (*Author Tested)

Blues City Deli *
2438 McNair, St. Louis, Mo. 63104

  • Veggie Reuben – Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, tomato, pickle, Thousand Island dressing, on rye or sourdough
  • Prez Pastrami Reuben – house smoked pastrami, Swiss, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, on rye or sourdough

Carl’s Deli *
6401 Clayton Rd, St. Louis, MO 63117

  • Traditional Reuben

Crown Candy Kitchen *
1401 Saint Louis Ave, St Louis, MO 63106

  • Corned beef on rye grilled, Swiss, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing

9200 Olive Blvd, Olivette, MO 63132

  • Reuben Sandwich – House baked corned beef topped with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing on a marble rye hoagie
  • Turkey Reuben – Same as above only with slice turkey instead of corned beef
  • Reuben salad (large or small) – Romaine lettuce with sauerkraut, corned beef, Swiss and Thousand Island dressing

Fozzie’s Sandwich Emporium 
1170 South Big Bend, Richmond Heights, MO. 63117

  • Corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island on marble rye

6931 Gravois Ave. St. Louis, MO 63116

  • Pastrami Gone a Rye – Toasted rye, house-made pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss, Thousand Island

Heavy Riff Brewery *
6413 Clayton Ave, St. Louis, MO 63139

  • Smoked Reuben – House corned beef, slowly cooked on hickory and cherry wood, served on marbled rye bread, Wisconsin Swiss cheese, house-ginned sauerkraut, topped with special Adobo Thousand Island dressing.
  • Turkey Reuben – Same as the regular Reuben, but with slowly smoked turkey.

LeGrand’s Sandwiches & Deli
4414 Donovan Ave, St. Louis, MO 63109

  • Reuben sandwich: Corned Beef, Swiss, Sauerkraut, 1000 Island Dressing on Rye Bread

Mom’s Deli
4412 Jamieson Avenue, St Louis, MO 63109

  • Hot corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss with homemade Thousand Island on marbled rye bread

O’Connell’s Pub
4652 Shaw Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110

  • Reuben special on Tuesdays only

OB Clarks
1921 South Brentwood Blvd. Brentwood, 63144

  • Traditional Reuben

Olivette Diner
9638 Olive Blvd, Olivette, 63132

  • Reuben – Corned beef brisket, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, Swiss on marble rye
  • Rachel – Same as above with turkey instead of corned beef

Posh Nosh *
8115 Maryland Ave, Clayton, MO 63105

  • Veggie Reuben – Sliced tomato, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss
  • Reuben – Corned beef with sauerkraut, homemade Russian dressing, Swiss, grilled on rye

7608 Wydown Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63105

  • Corned beef Reuben – Corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian Dressing, grilled on Jewish rye
  • Pastrami Reuben – Pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, grilled on Jewish rye
  • Corned beef & pastrami Reuben
  • Rachel – Same as above with sliced turkey in place of corned beef and/or pastrami
  • Flora’s favorite “Veggie Reuben” – Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, grilled on Jewish rye

The Wood Shack Soulard
1862 S 10th St, St. Louis, MO 63104

  • Pastrami Reuben – Peppered pastrami, sauerkraut, Comte cheese, Thousand Island sauce on rye bread

Vivola Express
1191 Schuetz Road, St. Louis, 63146

  • Reuben – Corned beef, Swiss Cheese melted with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing.