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Feb 6, 2008 10:38 AM

Reubens - Sauerkraut or Coleslaw? [Split from Pacific Northwest board]

[Split from this thread:


I have a question for Reuben afficionados. I've always had a Reuben with sauerkraut, but my girlfriend, who grew up in Jewish delis in New Jersey has never even heard of such a thing. She says that a Reuben has coleslaw, not kraut. I recall, also, reading in a James Beard book, his lament about how nowadays (the 40s, I believe) people are making pastrami sandwiches with sauerkraut instead of coleslaw and calling them Reubens. What's the story here?

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  1. How I was taught:

    Reuben = sauerkraut
    Rachel = coleslaw

    7 Replies
    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

      I was taught

      Reuben = pastrami, kraut, swiss, dressing, rye
      Rachel = turkey, kraut, swiss, dressing, rye

      I had a Reuben with coleslaw on it recently, really depressed me.

      1. re: tzurriz

        100% agreement here. Reuben is pastrami and Rachel is turkey (or smoked turkey). But sauerkraut is a must on both.

        I've always loved turkey, cole slaw, swiss cheese and Russian dressing on rye but this is not grilled. Does it have a specific name?

        1. re: Chefpaulo

          Roast beef cole slaw, swiss cheese and Russian dressing on rye is called a Sloppy Joe where I grew up in NJ - not too be confused with the nasty manwhich/hamburing thing sharing the same name in some parts of the country.

        2. re: tzurriz

          Basically correct, though I'd argue that ordering a "Reuben" gets you corned beef, not pastrami. You have to order a "pastrami Ruben" if that's what you want. It's like a the difference between a "martini" and a "vodka martini"---if it isn't don't specified, gin should be assumed...

          1. re: tzurriz

            There's a deli in near me that has what they call a rebecca. It's got three pieces of bread, a la club sandwich. The bottom is filled with pastrami, swiss and the russian and the top layer has cream cheese. I'm pretty certain this is their creation. It's quite good, if you like cream cheese on sandwiches.

          2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

            This is the terminology where I grew up in Philadelphia. And....
            Rachel also ="special" -as in a turkey/corned beef/roast beef special where the special in partiular refers to a cold sandwich with coleslaw.


            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

              i was taught the same way barmyfotheringayphipps
              also it is corned beef
              the other thing about using pastrami (in new england anyway) is we don't have the real new york type of pastrami ours is thin(shaved) meat that is thrown in water with some mustard in it andthey take it out of the water throw it on a roll or rye and within 30 sec you have your roll /bread more like a sponge that full of water soggy
              i guess what i am getting at is with our style of meat you really can't use it for a reuben

              1. re: swsidejim

                swsidejim, your answer is not only succinct but absolutely correct.

                1. re: feelinpeckish

                  I'm with jim...Reuben, sauerkraut, period.

              2. I have quite a few relatives rolling over in their graves at the thought of a Reuben with coleslaw!

                1. Sauerkraut all the way. Coleslaw on a sandwich? only on a pulled bbq pork sandwich for me.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: babaoriley7

                    yes, coleslaw on a pulled pork sandwich is a must for me as well.

                    the only place I was served slaw on a reuben instead of kraut was in Northern Wisconsin, I dont know that they were thinking.

                    1. re: babaoriley7

                      Cole slaw is good on lots of sandwiches but a Reuben needs kraut!

                    2. Sauerkraut. The coleslaw is saved for turkey or brisket on rye.