By Rob Corliss
October 29, 2020
Handhelds work particularly well in today’s landscape, with a built-in ease of portability for off-premise dining. That logistical upside encourages innovation, urging menu developers to develop signature offerings around classic favorites.
The Reuben has been the center of creative play over the last few years, with chefs exploring variations of the standard toasted rye, corned beef, Swiss, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. They have artfully switched out corned beef with beets for clever veg-centric versions, or subbed in smoked pork for a different meat-centric spin. David Chang’s delivery-only version of Fuku, serving Washington D.C. and Arlington, Va., serves a Reuben-inspired fried chicken sandwich, topped with seasoned cabbage and Russian dressing. Earlier this year, Pringles launched a limited-time offering Reuben-flavored potato chip, demonstrating the consumer reach and acceptance of this beloved flavor platform.
With all that said, the biggest opportunity today is in leveraging the Reuben’s meat-centric sandwich variations. This taps into the comforting cues of a meaty dish and the appeal of a richer food experience.
Start with the classic base of rye bread, Russian dressing, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and corned beef, then switch out or add ingredients to take that profile in a new direction and tell your unique brand story—all while maintaining the Reuben identity. Here’s a roadmap on how to do that:
Blackened Blue Reuben: Rye bread + Russian dressing + sauerkraut + blue cheese + blackening-spiced smoked tri-tip steak slices
Roast Turkey Reuben: Rye bread + Russian dressing + creamy coleslaw + Havarti cheese + thick-sliced roast turkey breast (skin on)
Brat Reuben: Rye bread + Thousand Island dressing + sauerkraut + Gruyère cheese + sliced beer-simmered brats
Fried Chicken Reuben: Rye bread + Russian dressing + creamy apple/cabbage slaw + Swiss cheese + crispy fried chicken breast
Mediterranean Reuben: Rye bread + Russian dressing + shaved garlic and cucumber slaw + sliced ricotta salata cheese + sliced roasted lamb shoulder
Baja Reuben: Rye bread + chorizo Russian dressing + lime-ancho seasoned green/red cabbage + sliced panela cheese + corned beef
Breakfast Reuben: Rye bread + Thousand Island dressing + jalapeño-bacon slaw + white cheddar cheese + corned beef + fried egg
Cubano Reuben: Rye bread + mustard + Russian dressing + pickle relish slaw + Swiss cheese + shaved ham + thick-sliced mojo-marinated roasted pork loin
MORE TO EXPLORE
Consider applying Reuben flavors and ingredients to these 10 formats for signature, fun menu items that are anchored in the familiar, but extend into something new and different.
3. Egg roll
4. Frittata/quiche/strata/eggs Benedict
5. Hand pie/pot pie
6. Loaded fries/tots/hash browns