Even on a rainy Sunday afternoon, the line at Zingerman’s Delicatessen stretched out the door yesterday. Families, couples and students crammed into Ann Arbor’s most famous deli, chatting excitedly about which sandwich to order. The most popular choice by far was listed on the menu as number two, the Zingerman’s $12 Reuben.

Hundreds are sold daily, deli manager Patrick Mills said. On football Saturdays, Zingerman’s sells more than 700 Reubens, he said.

“The bread, the corned beef and the size of the sandwich make it the most popular choice,” Mills said. “People come from New York and California, even France and Germany, to buy our sandwiches.”

The wait is usually between 15 and 25 minutes, but most say the layers of corned beef, Russian dressing, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, between thick slices of grilled Jewish rye bread, are worth the wait.

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted, and I think most customers would agree,” Mills said.

The deli aims to create sandwiches with balanced flavors, Mills said. The slight sweetness of the melted Swiss cheese and homemade dressing counters the salty flavor of the corned beef. The sauerkraut adds moisture to the layers of meat and cheese inside, and the bread, one of Zingerman’s best sellers, is important, too.

“Without the crispy crust — the crunch factor – it’s just not the same Reuben,” Mills said.

Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig, who founded Zingerman’s in 1982, used to get up at 4 every morning and drive around Detroit to find ingredients for the Reuben, one of the restaurant’s originals.

Although sandwich prices, which range from $6-$13, are more expensive than at most places, business at Zingerman’s remains brisk. Zingerman’s isn’t guilty of price inflation – just using the best ingredients, Mills said.

“We need to remember that with the Swiss cheese being flown in from Switzerland, no one is making a huge profit off of this sandwich,” he said.

Zingerman’s will even ship its Reubens anywhere in the country. Four sandwiches, with shipping and handling, cost $75.

– Each Monday this semester, The Extremist will find Ann Arbor’s best and worst, biggest and smallest. E-mail suggestions to news@michigandaily.com.

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