Although Noriko is Japanese, Lloyd Weinstein’s wife and mother to their three children bought into the whole Jewish family when they got married back in 1967. What’s her favorite treat at Benjies Deli? That would have to be the Reuben sandwich.
And what’s not to love? Tender layers of corned beef smothered in sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing captured between two slices of the freshest rye bread. Then it gets toasted on the grill til the outside is nice and crispy, and the inside is hot and dripping with goodness. Is anyone else hungry yet?
Although known throughout Orange County for serving the best pastrami sandwich, true Benjies devotees know to ask for their Reuben sandwich for a delicious change of lunch or dinnertime scenery. Sometimes corned beef and sauerkraut is the only way to go.
But where did this behemoth of deli awesomeness originate? Who does Noriko have to thank for the invention of her favorite sandwich? Well, there’s two schools of thought on this, and we have to say, we vote for the second version’s authenticity. I mean really, could this traditional deli sandwich have originated in Nebraska?
Yes, you read right. That was NEBRASKA. I guess a few of our Jewish brethren made their way from the East Coast to the dead center of the U.S., and specifically, a man named Reuben Kulakofsky, a Lithuanian-born Jewish grocer. He and his gang of poker buddies met once a week at Omaha’s Blackstone Hotel from around 1920 through 1935. This group nicknamed themselves “the committee”, and they loved them a corned-beef sandwich. Whether the sandwich’s invention was just down to Reuben or a group effort between he and the committee, rumor has it that it gained local notoriety when Charles Schimmel, the hotel’s owner and part of the poker club, put it on the lunch menu. A former waitress of the Blackstone entered the hotel’s version of the Reuben in a national sandwich competition in 1956. It’s win propelled it’s fantastic, historical success.
Or did it? What about the claim that Arnold Reuben, the German-Jewish owner of the renowned, yet now closed, Reuben’s Delicatessen in New York invented the sandwich that bears his name? Really, didn’t the city of New York invent the best of what we now know of as a “deli”? According to an column by Craig Claiborne, a N.Y. Times food writer, in 1976, Reuben invented the sandwich in 1914. There’s also stories of how Reuben threw the sandwich together for Annette Seelos, a famous actress of the time, and I’m sure that Noriko would be happy to think that a woman inspired her favorite sandwich. Although the sandwich he was said to have created for her was called a “Reuben’s Special”, which was meat and cheese and coleslaw, and wasn’t grilled.
But, let’s face it—when that steaming pile of corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut is placed before you at your Benjies table, will you really care where the sandwich originated? We’d like to think that all you’ll have on your mind is taking the first bite. The corned beef is ready and waiting; we’ll see you soon.