Like the green beer you chased your whiskey with last week, the Reuben is not an everyday concoction. Knowing that, though, didn't keep me from eating six of them in 72 hours. My attempt to assemble a definitive Reuben list before St. Patrick's Day led me to taste the things in my dreams, a whiff of sauerkraut on my fingertips as I drifted off.
Ultimately, the six strong versions of the sandwich I found are so good that they deserve attention the other 364 days of the year. Here, then, a list of Reuben sandwiches worth ordering well after you've turned the page on March. Just don't overdo it.
Browne's Irish Marketplace
3300 Pennsylvania, 816-561-0030
The longevity of this 127-year-old, quintessentially Irish market is due in no small part to its deli, which steals the limelight from the many Celtic curios lining the walls. During a recent lunch hour, the joint churned out sandwiches, potato salad and shepherd's pie at a terrifying pace. Browne's Reuben is about as authentic as they come, slathered with corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese, plus Thousand Island dressing and horseradish sauce - a delectable mess between two slices of marble rye.
Governor Stumpy's Grill House
321 East Gregory Boulevard, 816-444-2252
You don't go to Stumpy's for a light meal, and this place's greasy Reuben is straight-up heart-attack fuel. Which is to say: It's delicious. When it arrives, let it sit awhile before digging in. This Reuben reaches peak flavor after the juices permeate the bread and the dish congeals into an amalgamation of meat, cheese and kraut. You might need a shower. You might forget to put the sandwich down first, if there's any left.
813 West 17th Street, 816-785-3454
Creating a vegan version of this classic seems like a tall order, but chef and Füd owner Heidi VanPelt-Belle somehow pulls it off. The "corned beef" is made of jackfruit, and the flavor is just about as legit as you can get without sinking your teeth into the real thing. If you take "vegan" to mean "healthy," then think again. This is a big, sloppy, salty brute - exactly what you want in a Reuben.
The Milwaukee Delicatessen Co.
101 West Ninth Street, 816-471-6900
The 130-year-old Cosby Hotel successfully dodged demolition a few years ago. Then last fall, the historic eatery on the ground floor reopened, revived after 75 years. Word of mouth has generated steady business for the place, and some of that talk ought to be about the Reuben - or, anyway, about the liberties being taken with the usual model. With spicy brown mustard instead of Thousand Island dressing, this sandwich lacks the dish's most recognizable flavor, but it's still something you order again (and tell a friend about).
Happy Gillis Café & Hangout
549 Gillis, 816-471-3663
In the easygoing spirit of this Columbus Park mainstay, what's sold as a Reuben here goes off the map: turkey pastrami, pickled cabbage, sweet Russian dressing. In a word: nontraditional. In another two words: pretty satisfying.
Bloom Baking Co.
15 East Third Street, 816-283-8457
While waiting in line at Bloom's bustling River Market bakery, I heard one of the owners stake a lofty claim: "It's the best Reuben in Kansas City." Well, it's only hubris if you're wrong. The caraway marble rye is delightfully crispy, the sauerkraut helping is generous, and the hand-carved pastrami is close to perfect. Yes, there's melted Swiss cheese. And yes, the Russian dressing is made in-house. Best in the city? Quite possibly.