Sometimes there is nothing like a good messy Reuben sandwich! A Reuben is a hearty-sized sandwich of corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese on Russian rye bread. Did you know that the Reuben Sandwich is the nation’s top hotel and restaurant sandwich?
Make yourself one at home and find your happy place. We have even included options for low-fat substitutions.
History of Reuben Sandwich:
There are a couple of legends or stories involving the creation of the Reuben Sandwich. I can find no actual evidence to support either claim. You be the judge!
Arnold Reuben, Jr., the son of the restaurants founder, believes that the sandwich was first made in 1927 or 1928 by one of the chefs who though that he ate too many hamburgers, made him a really good sandwich.
1914 – Patricia B. Taylor, daughter of Arnold Reuben (1883-1970), the founder of Reubens Restaurant and Delicatessen, remembers that her father made the first Reuben Sandwich in 1914. She described the incident to Crag Claiborne of the New York Times in his book called Craig Claibornes – The New York Times Food Encyclopedia:
The year was 1914. Late one evening a leading lady of actor Charlie Chaplin came into the restaurant and said, ‘Reuben, make me a sandwich, make it a combination, I’m so hungry I could eat a brick.’ He took a loaf of rye bread, cut two slices on the bias and stacked one piece with sliced Virginia ham, roast turkey, and imported Swiss cheese, topped off with coleslaw and lots of Reuben’s special Russian dressing and the second slice of bread. He served it to the lady who said, ‘Gee, Reuben, this is the best sandwich I ever ate, you ought to call it an Annette Seelos Special.’ To which he replied, ‘Like hell I will, I’ll call it a Reuben’s Special.’
1938 – Arnold Reuben gave an interview for the American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940, Reuben and his Restaurant, December 18,1938. Excerpts from the interview are as follows:
I’ll tell you about how I got the sandwich idea. I owned a delicatessen on Broadway and one day a dame walks in, one of the theatrical dames, and she’s down and out I suppose, and she asks me for something to eat. Her name was Anna Selos. Well, I’m feeling sort of good, so I figure I’ll clown around for the dame. That’s how it all came about. I’m clowning for the dame. Well, what do I do? I take a holy bread that I used to keep and grab up the knife and, you know, clowning like, I cut it right through on the bias. Then I take some roast beef, I don’t remember exactly what. But, anyway, I figure I’ll put anything on. So I take some meat and cheese and I slap it on, and I put on some spice and stuff and I make her up a sandwich; it was a foot high. Well the dame just eats it, that’s all. She must have been plenty hungry. And when she gets through she says, “Mr. Reuben, that’s the best sandwich I ever tasted in my life.” Well, the idea comes to me in a flash. I’ll call it the Anna Selos sandwich, after the dame. Then, one night, she brings some friends up, you know, stage people and a newspaper man, and this guy he goes right behind the counter and makes himself up a sandwich, and then he tells me why I don’t call the sandwich after celebrities? Like what happened with Anna Selos. Why don’t I call it the Anna Selos sandwich? Well, boys, in a flash, I get the idea. Anna Selos! I’ll call it a Reuben Special.
1925 – Another version is Reuben Kulakofsky (1873-1960), a wholesale grocer in Omaha, Nebraska and co-owner of Central Market in Omaha from 1900 to 1943, created the Reuben Sandwich. Kulakofsky belonged to a weekly poker group whose members apparently enjoyed fixing their own sandwiches every bit as much as they enjoyed playing poker. One of the players, Charles Schimmel, owner of the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha, put the Reuben Sandwich on the hotel menu.
1950s – George Leonard Herter, is his book Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices, Volume II, gives his account on who invented the Reuben Sandwich. Herter’s writings were known for their mixture of legend and history. NOTE: I have never been able to verify the below information in my research. You be the judge:
The Reuben Sandwich is unquestionably one of New York’s greatest contributions to the world of eating and is found in restaurants in all of the major cities of North America. The sandwich was invented by William Hamerly, a New York accountant and bachelor cook. He named it for Arnold Reuben, founder of Reuben’s New York Restaurant. Arnold Reuben has done a great deal of work for New York charities. He, in fact, received several awards for his charitable work. Hamberly named the sandwich for Reuben, not because he founded the famous Reuben Restaurant, but because he admired his charitable works. Like any really outstanding cooking recipe, the Reuben Sandwich spread over all of North America and even into Europe in a very short time.
1956– Fern Snider, chef of the Rose Bowl Restaurant in Omaha, was named grand prize winner in the 1956 national sandwich idea contest sponsored by the National Restaurant Association. The Reuben Sandwich obtained almost immediate national fame. According to the September 1956, American Restaurant Magazine, in an article titled “National Sandwich Winners:”
THE RUEBEN, a hearty man-sized sandwich of corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese on Russian rye bread, is the nation’s top hotel and restaurant sandwich in the opinion of judges of the National Sandwich Idea Contest in which more than 600 different sandwich items are entered from all parts of the country and Hawaii. The Rueben was submitted by Fern Snider, chef at the Rose Bowl Restaurant in Omaha, Nebraska.
- 1/2 cup Russian Dressing (see recipe below)*
- 6 slices marble rye bread
- 1/2 pound corned beef, thinly sliced
- 1/4 pound Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
- 1 cup sauerkraut, well-drained
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise (good-quality)
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon horseradish (prepared)
- Pepper, freshly cracked
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Salt to taste, if needed
Spread the prepared Russian Dressing on one side of each bread slice, then layer corned beef, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut on 3 slices of the prepared Bread. Place the remaining prepared bread slices over the top of each sandwich.
In a large frying pan over low heat, add some butter and melt. Add the prepared sandwiches and slowly thegrill sandwiches until nicely browned, using a bacon press or similar to weigh it down. Add additional butter and gently turn sandwiches and brown on the other side. Remove from heat, cut sandwiches in half, and serve immediately.
Traditionally Reuben Sandwiches are served with a large dill pickle slice.
Makes 3 Reuben Sandwiches.
In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, ketchup, Worcestershire Sauce, horseradish, pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt. Adjust according to taste. Refrigerate any unused dressing.
* If you want, you could substitute Thousand Island Dressing.
Categories:Beef Sandwiches Food History Lunch Sandwiches History
14 Responses to “Reuben Sandwich History and Recipe”
There really is nothing like a good Reuben. My mom used to do a cold version in the summer that was corned beef, coleslaw, and red Russian dressing on dark rye. It was amazing!
Who else came here because of the new subway commercial? Also if you live in Meridian ID, this little Deli shop called Hugo’s Deli makes a fantastic Reuben sandwich like none other.
I am the grandson of Charles Schimmel. And our grand father and his friend Reuben are the creators of the Reuben Sandwich.
Do you have additional family history on the Reuben Sandwich and your grandfather that can be added to the history? – Linda Stradley
Best Reuben I ever ate was from the deli at Spec’s downtown liquor store in Houston, Tx
Rachel Smith Johnson Leo
My Grandfather Arthur Hiem Smith was part of the poker club at the Blackstone in Omaha and had always sworn until his death that he created the freuben sandwich. He said Reuben K. (can’t remember how to spell it) and took the credit. He was the owner of The Colony Club Restaurant in Omaha.
The absolute best Ruben in the universe is served at “grills” restruant at the port in cape canaveral or at “grills” on the river (u.s. One) in Melbourne,Florida.
Question: Does anyone know a good substitute for rye bread that is gluten free? Thousands of us are gluten intolerant, but still love Ruebens. I miss the rye bread part. Society is just learning to acknowledge us in the USA. Thank you.
In 1956 Rose Naftalin of Omaha, Nebraska opened Rose’s Delicatessen & Bakery on NW 23rd Avenue in Portland, Oregon. Her version of the Reuben Sandwich, Rose’s Reuben, included the traditional corned beef, sauerkraut, Emmenthaler cheese, and Russian dressing on rye. But it had a bonus. A basement under the lower slice of rye of oven roasted, thin sliced turkey breast and an additional slice of Rye. A key touch in this double-layer sandwich was the “V” cut so that when plated in exposed four faces of deliciousness. Incredible sandwich and one I first enjoyed in 1972. More to the story but I’ll save it for the book.
We loved Rose’s Delicatessen, the Executive Ruben with the turkey layer was my favorite. Family dinners weren’t complete without one of the famous cinnamon rolls.
I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and I recall that according to legend the original reuben was created in germany…it was made of pumpernickel bread, sauerkraut, and pastrami…while I was serving in germany in 1954, that is the reuben I always bought from the german restaurants. the other versions changed to rye bread and corned beef…no dressing until the reuben was created in America….correct me if I am mistaken
Thanks for remembering Mr. Herter. I am one of many in his quiet , chuckling” fan ? club” . (” Virtually everyone knows that a proper beef steak is first cooked in roiling hot suet fat for a few minutes, before placing on the grill”. Anyone else is an amateur or or a fool”.) That’a paraphrase of the late GH . Those of you familiar with the subject will understand.
pumpernickel is just another type of rye. like light rye, marble rye, that gawd awful one with the seeds, etc
I thought the Reuben was created by Bernard Schimmel, Charles’s son. Bernard was a chef at the Blackstone. It was inspired by Ruben Kulakofsky and named after him. I think Bernard then later ran the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln.