Americans love a great sandwich — and a controversy.
Enter the Reuben.
While many associate the Reuben with New York delis and New York claims to have invented the sandwich, there’s strong evidence that it was invented in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925.
At Omaha’s Blackstone Hotel during a poker game, Reuben Kulakofsky, a local grocer, was asked to create a unique sandwich for the players. In the game that night was Charles Schimmel, the hotel’s owner. Schimmel loved it and put it on the menu.
The New York story is that the Reuben was created in 1914 by New York deli owner Arnold Reuben, who whipped up a sandwich consisting of ham, cheese, turkey, coleslaw, and dressing for an actress. Here’s the problem: Where’s the corned beef and why is there turkey in the sandwich?
So, many in the foodie world give Omaha the credit for the Reuben, and that city seriously celebrates this honor. There’s a ReubenFest in November, a restaurant challenge in January centered on recreating the fare and more.
Regardless of where it came from, it’s one of the sandwich giants rivaled by another hot and tasty concoction: the Cuban, or Cubano in Spanish. This sandwich includes roasted pork, sweet and salty ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles on Cuban bread (and sometimes salami, depending on the region).
The Cuban originated in Cuba before spreading to the United States
There’s a great story on NPR about the origin of the Cuban. There are many stories online, but this one interviews the authors of “The Cuban Sandwich. A History in Layers,” by Andrew Huse, Barbara Cruz and Jeff Houck. They set out to trace the history of this beloved sandwich.
According to that piece, the gist is a version was concocted in Cuba and emerged in Tampa, which had the largest population of Cubans until the revolution, when more Cubans fled to Miami. The sandwich was already established in Tampa and some versions included salami. Miami put its spin on it by adding the iron press, which gives the sandwich the thin appearance and crusty exterior it is known for.
The Cuban is really a melting pot of time, cities and immigrants.
Enough history. Let’s dive into where we can find these marvelous creations in Springfield.
One of the best Reubens is at Derby Deli. Just look at that mouth-watering photo. Piles of thinly sliced corned beef, melted Swiss, sauerkraut and Thousand Island are nestled in nicely toasted marble rye bread.
If you’ve never been, Derby Deli is a popular lunch spot housed in the middle of the Brown Derby International Wine Center. It’s usually very busy, so it’s best to get there early or go in off hours, like 1:45 p.m. They have an assortment of delicious sandwiches, killer salads, soup and legendary banana cake from St. Michael’s.
Find them: 2023 S. Glenstone Ave., 417-823-3551, or visit Derby Deli’s website.
D’Vine Delicatessen and Wine
D’Vine Delicatessen and Wine makes delicious versions of both sandwiches, including a unique version of the Reuben.
For the Cuban, it starts with mojo-marinated, thinly sliced pork loin that they make in-house. It contains all the other classic ingredients — good quality ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles, and the bread is brought in from Florida.
“Cuban bread from a Cuban baker from Florida helps make our Cubans exceptional,” said owner Doug Gruenberg.
For the Reubens, he orders his corned beef and pastrami from a New York specialty meat company.
“I pay a high price for this unique and rather original version, but we think it’s worth it, and so far our guests do as well,” he said.
Aside from a classic Reuben, you can order the Brooklyn OG, which combines a corned beef Reuben with a pastrami Reuben, which is made with pastrami and mustard. It’s a colossal bite and people love it, Gruenberg said. It’s the best of both worlds and is kind of like a Reuben club.
Find them: 3522 S. National Ave., 417-409-3084, or visit D’Vine Delicatessen and Wine’s website.
Dublin’s Pass Irish Pub
It’s not a sandwich, but a fun twist on the idea is the Reuben Rolls at Dublin’s Pass Irish Pub.
The Reuben Rolls have corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese wrapped in an egg roll and deep-fried. The appetizer is served with Thousand Island dressing made in-house. This is hearty pub fare, good for soaking up booze. They are sinful and delicious.
Find them: Dublin’s Pass Irish Pub has two locations in Springfield — 317 Park Central East, 417-862-7625; 2915 E. Battlefield Rd., 417-771-5248; you can also visit Dublin’s Pass Irish Pub’s website.
Split Social Kitchen
Split Social Kitchen has another playful take on the Reuben. They used to have a Cuban quesadilla, which was amazing (it occasionally comes back on special, so check their Facebook page), but it was replaced with a Reuben version. It’s the same concept: transform a sandwich into a crusty quesadilla.
On the menu it’s called the Cochran-Dilla, and it’s loaded with corned beef, Swiss, sauerkraut and Provel cheese (their own twist), all snuggled between two crispy flour tortillas that are grilled until golden brown. The quesadilla is served with a Thousand Island remoulade that they make in-house. The quesadilla is $22, FYI, but there are often leftovers.
Find them: 3027 E. Sunshine St., 417-755-7155, or visit Split Social Kitchen’s website.
You may not expect to find a great American sandwich at a British pub, but you will at Farmers Gastropub. Here, the corned beef is the star of this dish. It’s cut in-house, slightly thicker than some of the others in this story, and the sandwich has less sauerkraut than some others, but it’s nice. The Reuben is dressed with house-made Thousand Island and Swiss, on Neighbor’s Mill pumpernickel rye bread that is nicely buttered before it’s grilled. If it needs a little more dressing, just ask for more.
Farmers Gastropub supports many local farmers, cheese makers and other artisan food producers. Established in 2009, they source as many regional products as possible, so you’re supporting multiple area businesses when you eat here.
Find them: 2620 S. Glenstone Ave., in the Brentwood Shopping Center, 417-864-6994, or visit Farmers Gastropub’s website.
La Habana Vieja
Springfield only has one Cuban restaurant, La Habana Vieja, so you might expect to find a fantastic Cuban — and you would be right. For starters, co-owner Freddie Flores’ wife is Cuban and they wanted more authentic ingredients. He says there is often a disconnect between foods we consider Cuban and what Cubans eat on the island because there are rations and trade embargo.
Since Cuba has been under an American trade embargo for decades, countries like Switzerland and Norway sell their products to Cuba, so the Swiss cheese his wife grew up with was very different from the ones found in America. As a result, they use high-quality Swiss raclette cheese — often used in fondue — as well as Danish Gouda.
The Cubano is made with their own slow-roasted pork, ham, house-made mustard and house-made pickles on pressed Cuban bread. The sandwich is served with thick, hand-cut yuca fries.
“People ask me all the time what type of fries or potatoes are those? They are delighted to try something new,” Flores said.
Yuca is cassava root and is more plentiful in Cuba. The fries are served with house-made mojo sauce for dipping. Traditionally mojo sauce is made with garlic, herbs, olive oil and citrus, and is often used as a marinade.
La Habana Vieja makes a mighty tasty mojito, or order the Hibiscus tea if you’re not imbibing. This authentic restaurant is a wonderful addition to Springfield’s dining scene.
Find them: 220 E. Commercial St., 417-771-5723, or visit La Habana Vieja’s website.