Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Swiss cheese melts atop the chunks of roasted corned beef. Under the buttery grilled marble-rye bread, Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut mingle majestically. I take the first bite. Sweet tangy dressing balances strong sauerkraut. Chewy chunks of salty meat complement the nutty sharpness of the cheese.
I found the perfect Reuben at Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification Street, 601-948-0055). Growing up in an Irish family, we had corned beef and cabbage every St. Patrick's Day. It is still my favorite meal. One day when I was in high school I noticed the Reuben on the menu at a local Indiana restaurant, Sahm's. I figured that a sandwich with my favorite things would be pretty tasty, and now I'm obsessed.
My family and I are vagabond travelers and in each new city we move to, I search for the perfect Reuben to satisfy my hearty craving. Here in Jackson it led me to Fenian's Pub. Fenian's offers Irish favorites like traditional Irish stew, shepherd's pie, and boxties (an Irish potato pancake). Of course, given my obsession, I ordered the Reuben. The sandwich was by far the best Reuben I have tasted. The strongest feature was the corned beef. On this sandwich it was cut into chunks instead of thinly sliced, proving to accentuate the buttery, salty meat.
The exact origin of the Reuben is the subject of some debate. One story is that a man named Reuben Kulakofsky from Omaha, Neb., created it. According to Nebraskans, Kulakofsky was a grocer who created the sandwich during a poker game at the Blackstone Hotel in 1925. The second tale is that Annette Seelos, a leading lady of Charlie Chaplin's, ate the first Reuben at Reuben's Restaurant in Manhattan in 1914. Regardless of this questionable lineage, my love affair with the sandwich has burned brightly through the years.