Monday, February 25, 2013

Dormont Dogs

Not quiet a reuben sandwich, but I appreciated the homage to my favorite kraut combination; I had to try it!

Dormont Dogs is a cute and quirky hotdog shop in... surprise surprise... Dormont. Located right off of Potomac, catty-corner from the famous Dor-Stop, this little walk-in has some really inventive dog combos. Lots of the hotdogs are named after streets and locales in the area, and are all pretty amazing. I highly recommend the Parking Ticket!

On to the Rueben Dog! These skinny little gourmet dogs are snuggled inside a buttery, grill-toasted split bun. The meat-to-bun ratio is a little off for my tastes at 1st, but the toppings and thoughtful flavor profiles really make Dormont Dogs' inventions worth it. That being said, I will go ahead and admit that the Rueben Dog (which was the 1st thing I'd tried there) is not my favorite. But the construction is interesting, the dog nestled down in the bun, with the kraut and thousand island dressing on top, and everything sealed in with a layer of melted swiss. Worth a try! Go for the Rueben Dog, stay for their walking tacos. And when you're done, get your hair cut at Chiodo's next door. 


I (for once) didn't even have the intention of ordering a reuben/rueben. Since the new year, I was trying to eat a little better. And I already had at least one reuben with earlier this week. I was meeting my mum at Armstrong's in Caste Village for dinner, she beat me there and ordered. Not a salad. A reuben. I was pleasantly disappointed that my diet plan was intercepted.

Armstrongs is always busy, often times there's a line out the door. And for good reason. Reasonable prices and a great menu with a low key family atmosphere. I hadn't been there in over a decade, and it was still a great stop. Our food arrived ridiculously fast.

When I thought of Armstrongs I always thought antipaso salads, wedding soup, and fried zucchini. So for some reason I had been ready for a sub-par reuben. But this rueben surprised me! Starting with a seriously buttered rye toast, mild-not-too-sweet thousand island, there was a generous helping of corned beef round. This grilled sandwich was really well balanced, and was surprised, given the restaurant  that it wasn't squished by a panini press. The kraut was a little less than average in quantity but what this and the mild swiss lacked, the meat made up in flavor. What made this rueben stand out for sure was it's size. This was one damn big sandwich! I normally split a sandwich with my comrade, but since he wasn't there I took half to go for him... I couldn't finish! Although I really wanted to. :)

Unfortunately, I deleted my sandwich shot! I'll just have to go back. ;)

Monday, July 30, 2012


I grew up eating reubens. There's always the ones you remember; the ones you crave. Some of the places are still around, some of them are sadly held only in memory. Were they really that good? Or do we want them to be that good because we can never have them.

Thankfully, at least one place where I can say may have the Best Damn Reuben in Pittsburgh is still open. I've been telling my comrade since the day we met that it's the best. A 10/10. What I compare all reubens to (now that Rhoda's/Kazansky's is gone). That's a lot to live up to; big sandwich to fill. It had been awhile and we've had lots of reubens in this quest since then.

Gullify's in Squirrel Hill is one of my favorite places to eat. Anything. From start (strangely the hummus plate was awesome) to finish (just about any of their famous desserts), it's really tough to make a decision. And remember why you are there.

Reuben anticipation. What I love about Gullify's reuben is the double decker. Perfect toasted rye, not too dry not too soggy. You're biting through the toasty crust of the jewish rye, through it's soft center, and getting the tangy crunch of the hot kraut. But here's were things get yummy. It's not about quantity. It's not "see how big and obscene my beef is." It's balance and moderation of flavor and texture; it smells amazing. The texture of the brisket is fall-apart-perfect.

By this point in the meal when I've already started to make strange happy noises, my counterpart asks in the careful way that only he can... "do you think... maybe the thousand island is a bit... maybe, too sweet? Just asking..."
........... Oh.

It is. It IS! It is. It was true. I loved it but he was right. It was not perfect. All this talk of balance and distribution of flavors; this may not be the Best I'll have. But it's damn close, an outstanding 9 out of 10. I don't think the Best Damn Reuben in Pittsburgh has been eaten yet. I may just have to eat more.

Soon... the Smallman Street Deli.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sunny Jim's Tavern

"Traditional slow roasted corned beef brisket cooked in our own oven, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing served on caraway rye. Grilled to perfection. Only the finest sauerkraut processed by W.W. II German POW’s housed in Dixmont’s tunnel system is used in this delicacy. It’s Emsworth’s finest treat and best kept secret."

I didn't even know that I wanted a rueben, but with that practically perfect description, how could one pass it up?

Sunny Jim's is one of those off the road places; the kind of place I've passed by many times to and fro but never dynamic enough from it's exterior to take the time to stop in. Such places are usually the best and are discovered by word of mouth on a random Sunday afternoon with an R-BFF.

Friendly waitstaff, delicious Bloody Marys on special, and a quirky menu– I found Sunny Jim's to be a casual, comfortable bar-restaurant that I'm looking forward to visting again and hopefully check out the patio (and they boast a 25ft outdoor TV? Crazy).

Now, the rueben! The feature of this sandwich was surely the meat. Nice and thick with the great brisket texture I'm looking for. Hot, but not dry. When it came to corned beef, much attention was paid there. The sauerkraut was tangy, but much like the dressing it was a bit sparse. The bread was nicely toasted and mild, however the predictable caraway isn't my personal favorite. I give this sandwich a 6 out of 10. A great reuben, but average. Nothing to dislike, but nothing to love.

In addition to the reuben, we also got the Cajun Tenderloin Tips with drawn butter. Fantastic. Looking forward to trying more from Sunny Jim's.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Modern Cafe

This is my 1st post as a sandwich critic, so please bear with me while I adjust to my newfound celebrity status.

As you can imagine, any time the grape vine brings word of a tasty Rueben, my cohort and I make note and do our damn best to try it. This was the case with The Modern Cafe on Western Avenue on the North Side, with the source of the rumor being said establishment's own menu. "Reuben - Award Winning" right there on the paper in front of me. I've seen this particular claim before, and have always wondered "What award? And how do I sign up to be a judge?" Which was a question I intended on asking the bartender, but decided against it when he barely acknowledged my willing-to-give-him-money-in-exchange-for-food-and-drink existence.

Once ordered, the sandwich arrived quickly, and we immediately noted the structure, liking the way it was methodically built. Kraut in the middle, working out to the meat, cheese and dressing. I assume this was done to keep the bread from getting all soggy, which was the type of attention to detail that I appreciate.

The sauerkraut was really good, having a great combination of tang and texture. The corned beef was mediocre, appearing to be an average deli-style meat, though I did enjoy the thickness of the cut. No complaints about the Swiss, it was the right flavor and amount, not too sharp, but still prominent.

The Thousand Island dressing... to me this is the make-or-break component of the sandwich, needing the perfect combination of ingredients to deliver that tang that brings it all together. Sadly it was the Achilles' heel of this sandwich, and based on my limited knowledge on what makes up Thousand Island, it was extremely deficient in the relish department. It just lacked the necessary zip that marries it together, the final layer that brings it all home. The rye had a nice flavor, though I think the sandwich grill that it was prepared on may have moved the texture towards slightly over-toasted.

So with all that being said, I'm really wishing now that I had inquired about what award this sandwich had won, as it didn't really impress me or my fellow Reuben critic. We sat, we chewed, we compared notes, and came to the consensus that it had earned a 4 or 5 out of 10. A very, very middle of the road, take it or leave it sandwich, at best. Which really was a bummer, as we were both excited to be impressed.

On the upside, I highly recommend the Mediterranean Layer Dip, it was amazing and the highlight of the visit.

Upcoming: Bado's, Monterey Pub, West End Cafe, and Gullifty's to name a few.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Farewell, Smithfield Street Cafe

Before the 1st post could be made, the Smithfield Street Cafe closed it's doors on June 1, 2012. After serving up arguably one of the Best Damn Ruebens in Pittsburgh since 1933.
Read the City Paper article.