The turkey Reuben is hands-down the best sandwich – aside from the fabulous panini to be found only in Italy, in their proper form at least, or the sinful croque monsieur, to be had at the best cafes in Paris.

The turkey Reuben comes in many forms in the United States. However, waxing intellectual on the subject of what constitutes a true turkey Reuben and what is to be deemed a mere impostor can only take us so far in determining what the best one is, so instead of an academic exploration of this pre-eminent food, I came to the conclusion that the only suitable way to pay tribute to the turkey Reuben was to go out there and find the best one in Ann Arbor.

One thing that is needed prior to discussing the results of the taste test is an explanation of what the turkey Reuben is. An original Reuben is made with corned beef, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and sauerkraut, all served between two slices of grilled buttered rye bread.

A turkey Reuben is the same, only it substitutes smoked turkey breast for corned beef. Many of the restaurants I went to wanted to serve the sandwich with coleslaw instead of sauerkraut. While this is very good, it was not allowed for the taste test, and I always made the substitution for kraut. With that said, here are the results.

Pizza House

Oh, Pizza House, Pizza House, wherever did you learn to make a turkey Reuben?

This sandwich was without a doubt one of the worst I have ever had. The elements were all out of sync and not true to the turkey Reuben name. For starters, the bread was white bread, not rye – almost unforgiveable. But coupled with the fact that the slices were so thin that they sogged through and broke when I picked up the sandwich makes this a turkey Reuben I would never have again. The dressing was Thousand Island and way too mayonnaisey. The gross quantity did not just overpower the other elements; I actually thought I was eating a Thousand Island sandwich. The swiss was melted but utterly devoid of taste and the kraut was too sour. I decided that the $6.49 price was almost comical; really, they should have paid me to actually take a second bite.

With no reservations I awarded this sandwich last place. 5th place.

Red Hawk Grill

I had been to Red Hawk a number of times and always enjoyed the food, which made the disappointing nature of this sandwich quite a shock.

I expected a large, flavorful turkey Reuben, but instead I got a sandwich that was confused about its tastes. The turkey was so smoky that at first I though the chef had added bacon to the sandwich. The dressing tasted more like a lightly spiced mayo than Russian, and the Swiss lacked the punch it should have packed.

I enjoyed this sandwich only slightly, and that was more because of how interesting it was rather than how tasty it was. At $7.95, this sandwich is certainly no deal. But almost nothing could be as bad as Pizza House. 4th place.

Maize N’ Blue Deli

After going to Pizza House, almost anything would have seemed like a New York deli, and not surprisingly, Maize N’ Blue did not disappoint. This was a very good Reuben, although very different from the others. The turkey was lean but tasty, the cheese was not melted but it did have a wonderful nutty flavor and the kraut mingled harmoniously with the creamy Russian dressing.

The only aspect of the sandwich I did not enjoy was the bread, which was way too thick. I felt like I was eating a bread sandwich because the rye was so big. But everything else was in order, the $6.65 price was not too high. 3rd place.

Amer’s

Of all the establishments I went to, Amer’s came as the biggest shock, delivering a delicious and traditional turkey Reuben.

The turkey breast was slightly sweet, with a slight tinge of smokiness. The Russian dressing was true Russian – not the Thousand Island crap many proprietorships substitute. The Swiss cheese had great flavor without overwhelming the other elements, and something that was particularly enticing upon viewing this sandwich was the unique sight of the melted cheese.

Lastly, the rye bread was extremely buttery and still hot by the time it got to me, which is something that is of the highest importance. This sandwich was a truly great buy at $6.95. 2nd place.

Zingerman’s

Quite honestly, it came as no surprise that Zingerman’s delivered the most flavorful and satisfying Turkey Reuben.

First off, the bread was true rye, dark and filling. The dressing had the right amount of tang and creaminess, and the Swiss had more flavor than all of the others combined.

It is noteworthy that Zingerman’s used roasted turkey instead of smoked. But it was just as delicious as the more traditional version.

There were only two downsides to this sandwich. First, it was not served hot. I came back a few times, but never was it more than lukewarm by the time it got to me. I assume this is because of all the orders they have to deal with, but still, this is something that should be corrected. Second, the price was high. At $9.50 for a small and $10.50 for a large, this sandwich is anything but cheap.

The price and temperature aside, it was with no apprehension that I gave Zingerman’s full marks. 1st place.

While I do love turkey Reubens, after this contest I will most likely take a break from this rich lunch. But the taste testing was quite enjoyable – except for my painful experience at Pizza House, which I reckon is similar to the pain one feels getting a spinal tap.

I would encourage all to try this sandwich at either Amer’s or Zingerman’s, depending on whether or not you really want to splurge.

Or, you could always try to make your own. After all, if you want something done right, do it yourself.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.