Lick the Plate: In search of the perfect Reuben sandwich

Lick the Plate: In search of the  perfect Reuben sandwich
When Chef Andy Halvorsen from Moto Deli in Leucadia told Lick the Plate columnist David Boylan that he had added a Reuben to the deli’s already solid sandwich lineup, a sampling was in quick order. Photo by David Boylan

Individually, the ingredients that comprise a Reuben are a simple bunch that includes corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and rye bread.

Combined with they rye bread buttered and fried, they create a symphonic explosion of savory goodness that is one of my favorite sandwich experiences ever.

A good Reuben has always hit the spot — and it’s even better the day after a night out, providing that greasy, cheesy, savory, crisp combo that tends to satiate that type of hunger — not sure I want to have a Reuben mid-week for lunch, then head back to the office. It’s best to have some down time planned out post Reuben, as they tend to be substantial.

When Chef Andy Halvorsen from Moto Deli in Leucadia told me he had added a Reuben to their already solid sandwich lineup, a sampling was in quick order. I should say I had some apprehension, as Andy tends to put his chef-crafted spin on traditional sandwiches, with spectacular results for the most part.

That said, the simplicity of a Reuben is what makes it great and I was pleased to learn that Halvorsen did not mess with that — he just took it to another level with his choices of super high quality and house-made ingredients.

After indulging recently in what I consider to be one of the best Reuben’s I’ve ever had at Moto Deli, I wanted to get the details from Halvorsen on how he created this masterpiece.

His detailed response makes me hungry for one every time I read it.

“If you’re familiar with the menu here at Moto (Deli), you’ll know that we’ve tried to put our own spin on everything to make it unique.  Even something that should be a simple as smoked turkey breast, we had to step up to our Porchetta styled ‘Turketta.’ But the Reuben has always been one of my favorite sandwiches, so unlike most of the other stuff on our menu, I didn’t really want to mess with it, I just wanted to make the best sandwich I could and let it be special just for that.

“That being said, there’s only five elements to it, so we had to make sure they were all great,” he said. “Starting with the corned beef, which we cook in-house to assure the perfect level of tenderness…still firm enough to slice without disintegrating into shreds, but still melts in your mouth. For the Swiss cheese, we use Lacy Swiss, for its milder, nutty flavor, so it can have lots of cheese without the flavor being too overpowering.

“Lacking the space to make our own sauerkraut, we tried several versions to find the one with the best zap of flavor and crunch to it.  Depending on whom you ask, the proper sauce for a Reuben is either Thousand Island (a little on the sweeter side due the inclusion of sweet pickle relish) or the spicier Russian dressing, which gets an added kick from chili sauce and horseradish.

“Ours is somewhere in between, and therefor better than both. Finally, what is any sandwich without bread,” he added. “Rye bread in particular, is hard to find around here so that we do in house.”

Halvorsen said their deli’s baker, Reba Kevett, has crafted the perfect sandwich rye, which isn’t too crusty and has just the right amount of caraway.

“It’s slathered on both sides with butter and grilled on the flat top,” said Halvorsen. “The last thing that really takes the sandwich to the next level is pairing it with the proper drink. Anyone who has frequented a good New York deli will probably recognize (while everyone else goes, ‘huh?’) Dr. Brown’s Cel-Rey Soda.

“The peppery, herbaceous, slightly bitter flavor, along with the bright carbonation is the ideal foil for the unctuous, richness of the sandwich,” said Halvorson.

Nicely put Halvorsen, very nice.

You have me quite distracted yet again with that sensual description. I should add that it’s served with super crunchy chips and an amazing pickle with a bit of a kick. Next time I will pair it with the Cel-Rey soda.

Yes, you can get a Reuben at most diners around town and there is always Milton’s with their own solid version, but I don’t think they can touch what’s going on at Moto Deli.

My advice is to spend a morning getting really hungry, however you choose to do that, and then head to the Moto Deli and indulge in this beauty of a sandwich. And if at all possible, give yourself some down time after.

Moto Deli is at 810 N. Coast Hwy. 101. Visit online at motodeli.com or call (760) 943-6686.

David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at david@artichoke-creative.com or (858) 395-6905.

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