It sounds like something out of a windswept Western film, and it looks like a campy, self-aware dive bar….what is it? Gene’s Last Chance in the Strip, is what! A diner and bar in the high, nearly un-Stripped end of the Strip district of Pittsburgh, towards Lawrenceville. I had been curious about the sandwich within, advertised as a MONSTER REUBEN for months and months before a visit by an out-of-state friend occasioned a stop inside. We were both able to split the MONSTER REUBEN and have what appeared to be an entire sandwich on (in) our hands. Here’s what that adventure looked like:
However, there are some pretty good menu items at Leo’s Restaurant…or Restaurants. Here’s the most mysterious thing about this completely un-mysterious restaurant: whys is its plurals?!??! It has no official website, but there is a Yelp page. Decide for yourselves!
Leo’s Restaurant(s) – Southbury, CT
So, we entered Leo’s at about 2pm, and there was no waiting for a table, although a fair amount of guests passed through during the duration of our stay. The service was very prompt, albeit brusque – which I can attribute to the apparent responsibility for the entire restaurant in the hands of one waitress, who was at the epitome of her efficiency game. Leo’s Faaaaamous Reuben Sandwich (chosen from other, less noble sandwich options including, “Corned Beef Sandwich” “Corned Beef & Turkey” and “Turkey, Pastrami, or Corned Beef”. Tricky, but I think I made the best decision in the end. I made sure to ask if they had sweet, sweet sweet potato fries and subbed them for the default steak fries – no problem!. Fast forward, ten or fifteen minutes later to its appearance, with the sw. po. fr. decrying their orange birthright loudly against the bright pink corned beef foreground, all of this perfectly counterbalanced by the cool green glow of a barely-pickled cucumber (house made, I believe). To my delight, the small side of coleslaw was as drippingly sweet and Southern as a girl of my Floridian upbringing is accustomed to in a slaw. Also provided was an even smaller serving of dijon mustard, which I tried applying liberally to one bite of the sandwich but afterwards discarded – tradition, tradition, pooh, pooh! It was goo mustard though…perhaps for a “Corned Beef & Turkey”. The reuben sandwich itself was built on a foundation of the thickest, floppiest chunks of corned beef I’ve seen – all of that girth and none of the fatty obstacles you would assume as chewing impossibilities! Nice, full chewing, for sure, but nothing that will keep you locked out of the table’s conversation for more than a minute a bite. The only disappointment was the scarcity of “Leo’s Famous Sauerkraut” – it must truly be a local treasure, stored deep in the trap door beneath the basement, and rationed out at a rate so as to last the next ten years of steady Leo’s Reuben orders. The rye bread was….well, I barely even remember the bread.
The atmosphere was really adorable, as to be expected in the northeast….well, it’s what I expected, but I’m pretty new here.
I’d give it about 635 Islands of dressing!
Not really! Man, if there was a Bed & Reuben, you better bet I’d be there, sleeping soundly and dreaming of the morning’s reuben breakfast! Ahem, but enough with daydreams. It’s time for reality, which can sometimes be just as good as a dream..especially if it involves an entire pound of corned beef all to yourself.
The Lodge of Antioch – Antioch, IL
Finding this restaurant was a happy accident that blessed our lazy village wanderings with a spectacular luncheon. While hopping from the local bike shop to the local fudge shop, we happened to lean in too close to a wooden wall and find mounted there a sheet of paper displaying the words, “…Signature Reuben…” and quickly found ourselves pulled into the tractor beam of its promises. (Don’t worry, we still made it to the fudge shop!)
There is a moment there when the waitress informs us of the claim a visitor has made – that this reuben is better than at a New York deli….now, I haven’t been to NYC since I was in my ramen noodle phase, and I’m not headed back there straight away to prove this stranger correct, but for the time being, let me emphasize: this was a good reuben. Much better than I expected to find coming out of what seemed primarily ‘pub’, and what turned out to be perfectly balanced with ‘eatery’. In fact, everything we had, from the perfectly crispy onion rings, to the unique honey cream salad dressing and the “It’s A Meal In Itself!” Bloody Mary impressed us enough that we bypassed normal conversational trends and instead kept commenting about the deliciousness of the meal. The Moose’s Signature Reuben did not disappoint, with its towering pound of corned beef atop rye bread and its accompaniment of Thousand Island and saeurkraut (although we did ask for a side of saeurkraut, because it was so good and we felt there was not enough to go with all that MEAT). The sandwich was juicy to the last bite – the kind of juiciness that reminds you, “this ain’t no lunch meat!” You would almost expect such a volume of beef to be difficult to bite through, when in fact whatever cooking method was used ensured a lush, easy chew that seemed to melt in your mouth…as much as meat can melt at 98 degrees farenheit, ahaha.
We walked away feeling as though we had just discovered a very promising location to eat at again and again! After all, if everything we had was delicious, then everything else they have to offer must be great, too!
Maybe one day, it WILL be normal to offer vegan, gluten free, soy free, corn free, and raw options in one fantabulous restaurant! But for now, I’ve found that this kind of set up still strikes people as being as queer as the neighborhood I found myself in…
the Chicago Diner – Boystown, Chicago, IL
The primary establishment being reviewed here is the Chicago Diner, with a special appearance by the Truly Free Bakery & Deli in Baton Rouge, LA! Why, you ask? To be honest, I wasn’t ever going to release the Truly Free footage (keeping it Truly Confined, I suppose), because of the lack of footage caused by the deflated spirits of your very own reuben host, who had to go through two entire reuben sandwiches there before figuring out which was the vegan one! I initially ordered the vegan reuben contents on a gluten free panini, but was served the regular gluten free panini, which includes real corned beef (for those of you not in the know – meat by itself is naturally gluten free!). After I realized this, I told the waitress and was of course brought the correct version of my order (terrific customer service). My friend across the table ordered a vegan/gluten free (it should probably have been stated earlier that all menu items are guaranteed gluten free) pizza and was weirded out by it (I, of course, finished it for her). The vegan version of the reuben was less tasty than the full-blooded meatified version, and less reubenesque than I felt was possible, given the modern vegan technologies available to our generation…
with that in mind, let us move on to attempt number 3 at finding the “meatiest” vegan incarnation of the reuben! Never let it be said that I let the holy grail slip from my fingers!
In the mix-up, I think the reason I allowed myself to be convinced that the corned beef reuben was a vegan reuben is because I had faith in the existence of a sandwich like the one I encountered at The Chicago Diner. I’m serious. That first bite into the hefty seitan creation was one of exploding vegan fireworks, full impact on my tastebud moons, running through fields of saeurkraut joy. I can’t go overboard enough with those metaphors: here is a vegan sandwich that you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy. It is just as flavourful as any pile of meat, with excellent dressing and saeurkraut in perfect proportions. Not to mention that side of sweet potato fries – oh. my. goodness.
I am happy
But listen, it was False French Advertising!
I heard, ‘ROO-BIN-YAY’, which is always how I feel when I think about reubens, yay! But it turns out that Rue Beignet is a street where french pastries live/are served, or a very nice little restaurant that is French for ‘not a meaty sandwich”, and am I getting my point across? So I was tricked, but it was close enough, and it was certainly delicious.
That is all. Til next sandwich! (Don’t you feel cheated?!)
I’d have to give this a wacko, out-of-left-field Thousand Island rating….how bout….