Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Not about beer, but reubens

I have not been very successful about writing about beer regularly here. Mostly because I already write for a living, it's difficult to also spend my free time writing. Maybe I'll try a little harder to write here this year.

Regardless, I have committed to writing not about beer, but about reubens, in my free time. Why? This summer I met an employee at Deschutes Brewery who endeavored to eat 100 burgers in 100 days in Central Oregon. (You can check out his blog and the results here.)

This seemed like an amazing idea I wanted to try...but with less commitment and with a different sandwich. I love reubens, and they are usually amazing on the East Coast. They are hit or miss in Oregon, I have found.

So I thought I would try to eat every reuben in Central Oregon (but not one a day) and attempt to find the best one. I am going to track my progress here, since I don't really want to start another blog just about reubens.

What makes a good reuben? Glad you asked. I think the proportions of a sandwich are key. Too much or too little of any element -- bread, meat, cheese, sauerkraut or dressing -- and the whole thing can be not enjoyable. And if the corned beef is underwhelming, the sandwich is likely to follow suit.

I am rating each reuben on a 5-point scale, based on deliciousness and value for the price (dinner menu). It would probably be hard for me to give a reuben under a 2, unless it was missing some key component.

Anyway, here are the first seven I have eaten; stay tuned for more reubens later on!

Deschutes Brewery Pub

The effort from the biggest brewpub in Bend is a solid one. Everything in the sandwich tastes good; the meat is delicious, the gruyere cheese is good even though I am a swiss purist. The bread is pretty. You get a crap ton of fries, as you can see. 

But it's not a perfect reuben. The bread is a little on the dry side and kind of gets overpowered by the insides. And at nearly $14, this is more than I would rather pay for a reuben that doesn't blow me away. Still, I would eat this and be happy most days of the week.

Rating: 3
Price: $13.5

Bend Brewing Company

BBC on locals' night is a killer deal. Three bucks for a pint. That being said, I've never been a huge fan of the food; I always go for the beer.

The reuben is fine. It's not offensive in any way, but to look at it doesn't make you believe you are going to be eating an amazing reuben. Everything is there in good proportion.

But it's a bit of a riff on a reuben with pastrami instead of corned beef, and half of the meat is also turkey breast. I'd rather just have a perfectly executed reuben than other stuff in it.

But I am not grading on a curve because of that. It's still just a serviceable if not exciting reuben. And it's a bit on the small side.

Rating: 2.5
Price: $11.95

Cascade Lakes Brewing

The pub that is the last stop on the way to or from Mount Bachelor is not best known for its food.

But this is a pretty good reuben, despite the fact that is uses half pastrami and half turkey. Every bite was balanced with every element. It's a huge sandwich, but it does it without anything feeling out of whack.

The bread could have been grilled a bit better on the version I had, but it's definitely in the upper echelon of the area's reubens.

Rating: 3.5
Price: $11.95

Brother Jon's Alehouse

I know it's early. But this may be the best reuben in Central Oregon.

The picture I took doesn't really do the sandwich justice, but trust me, it's amazing. 

Brother Jon's makes great sandwiches. Mostly because they use great meat -- in this case beautifully shredded corned beef -- and bread. The ratios are perfect -- never too much bread or any of the other components. And despite there being a giant pile of meat, it doesn't overwhelm everything else.

I would give up every other reuben in Bend and be happy to eat this one exclusively. But the search will go on. It's also $11, which is an amazing value. I won't give it a five just because I think a 5 is nearly impossible to attain. But it probably deserves one.

Rating: 4.5
Price: $11

JDubs

JDubs is a newish spot in town that has not really succeeded in any iteration that proceeded it at its spot on Bond Street. But they have reasonably priced beer and a good menu.

That included a reuben (I had this more than a month ago, but it doesn't appear on the online menu) that I enjoyed. For some reason I was cutting calories and had a salad on this day, despite the pile of fat that is a reuben.

Everything here is well done. Great shredded corned beef, grilled bread just how I like it, good ratio of kraut and sauce. It still doesn't have the "it" factor that would lead me to believe that it was the best reuben I would have in Bend. But it was pretty damn good.

Rating: 4
Price: $11

Sunriver Brewing

Let's start here: This is not a reuben. It does have most of the elements of a reuben, but it's served as a mini-calzone, with a Thousand Island dipping sauce.

As a thing just to eat, it's nearly a 5. I would eat just the pretzel in the sauce all day and be happy. As a reuben, it's a little weird. There is way more pretzel than there is "inside stuff." Meaning not enough meat and cheese to offset all the dough.

In the exercise of grading reubens, I have to ding it for that. And it's not really a reuben. But it's still delicious.

(Note: This is from the pub in Sunriver. But they have it in their Bend pub too.)

Rating: 4
Price: $14

The Pumphouse

Don't go to Terrebonne just for the reuben.

This is not a great reuben, with sliced pastrami instead of corned beef, and just doesn't have enough "meat," both literally and figuratively.

Of course, in the middle of ranch territory, getting something other than a burger or a steak is probably sacrilege.

It gets a bonus just for being a sandwich under $10, which is nearly impossible to find at a Bend restaurant.

Rating: 2
Price: $9.95