Best Reubens in Sonoma County

Corned beef, Russian dressing and sauerkraut make for a seriously good sandwich

Reuben at Jackson's Bar & Oven | PD

Like any great dish, the origins of the Reuben sandwich is shrouded in mystery and controversy. Many lay claim to its founding, though the true Reuben may ultimately be lost in the mists of history.

As a child of the 1970s, I always figured it was a tribute to the quirky friend/manager Reuben Kincaid of the Partridge family. Turns out folks have been enjoying these sandwiches much longer.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary originally attributed the sandwich to New York restaurateur Arnold Reuben who reportedly served it to a hungry female co-star of Charlie Chaplin’s in 1914. Raising serious Nebraskan ire at the oversight, Omaha natives cried foul, saying it was actually local grocer Reuben Kulakofsky who dreamed up the corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, rye bread and Russian dressing sandwich in 1925. According their accounts, the sandwich was dreamed up to feed hungry late-night poker players at the Blackstone Hotel.

Like nachos, the Caesar salad or buffalo wings, the details of its origins may never be completely unearthed. meaty lunchtime staple has become as ubiquitous to American menus as, well, apple pie.

When it comes to Reuben sandwiches, one of the most important ingredients is the sauerkraut. This fermented cabbage isn’t just a zesty side, it’s incredibly good for your digestive system! All the rage in foodie circles right now, one of the best locally made krauts is from the Ceres Communty Project. The community kitchen makes big batches to feed their clients (usually cancer patients needing healthy meals) and recently won a national award for their Arame & Ginger sauerkraut. You can find it at Oliver’s, G&G Market, Community Market in Santa Rosa, Shelton’s Natural Foods in Healdsburg or Whole Foods in Sebastopol.

Purists insist that a true Reuben consist of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing on toasted rye bread. Nothing more, nothing less. Pastrami, the smoked cousin of corned beef is often substituted, as is Thousand Island dressing — a mayonnaise-based topping that evolved from the yogurty Russian version. From there, almost anything is game, from Reuben egg rolls and pizzas to Reuben-style hotdogs.

Where to get this post-St. Patty’s day corned-beef classic locally? Here are some favorites…

Upscale Reubens

Fresh By Lisa Hemenway Reuben Sandwich

Fresh by Lisa Hemenway: The creme-de-la Reuben, this slightly off-kilter version uses grilled seeded sourdough, caramelized onions, organic sauerkraut and Swiss served with roasted baby reds, $12. 5755 Mountain Hawk, Santa Rosa,  595-1048.

Jackson’s Bar and Oven: Exec Chef Josh Silvers knows from deli. His dressed-up version: Corned beef, Swiss, house-baked Rye and Sauerkraut with house-made chips. $10.95. And of course, the pickles.135 4th Street, Santa Rosa, 545-6900.

Della Fattoria: Another unusual, but delicious take on the traditional, Petaluma’s Della Fattoria piles high Niman Ranch pastrami, Thousand Island Dressing, hearty fresh-baked bread and Alexander Valley sauerkraut. 141 Petaluma Boulevard North, Petaluma, 763-0161.

From the Deli: Traditionalists
Mac’s Deli: Long my go-to standard, Mac’s Reuben is simple and classic. Served with fries and a pickle, it’s a little slice of NYC in Santa Rosa. 630 4th Street, Santa Rosa, 545-3785.

Aoili Deli: Tucked away in Forestville, this outstanding little deli continues to impress. Slow braised corned beef, house made Thousand Island aioli and bread from nearby Nightingale breads.

Ulia’s Deli: Locals love this westside deli, and credit for inspiring a lengthy discussion about the merits of Sonoma county’s Reuben’s started with a rave about Ulia’s top-notch Reuben.130 Stony Point Rd # F, Santa Rosa, 525-8542.

Arrigoni’s Deli: Downtown Santa Rosa is fortunate to have several solid delicatessens, and Arrigoni’s extensive sandwich selection makes it a top pick. Classic Reuben on rye. 701 4th St.,
Santa Rosa, 545-1297.

Even more Reubens
Willie Bird Turkey: It’s safe to say that pretty much anything you’re looking for is probably on Willie Bird’s menu. Though they specialize in turkey-centric eats, does a solid grilled Reuben with corned beef, Swiss and sauerkraut on rye. Why Thousand Island dressing is served “on request” is anyone’s guess. $9.75. 1150 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa, 542-0861.

The Un-Reuben: Taps Petaluma is known for hot dogs, rather than pastrami. Their version of the Reuben is an all-beef dog dressed up with sauerkraut, cheese and Thousand Island on a poppy seed bun.



39 thoughts on “Best Reubens in Sonoma County

  1. The Reuben at Solbar in Calistoga has house-made corned beef, house-made sauerkraut, house-made russian dressing and and house-made rye bread. Fantastic!

  2. The taps Ruben dog is served on a fresh baked Full Circle Bakery Bakery hot dog roll.. the poppy seed bun only is used on our traditional Chicago dog.

  3. I’ve had Jackson’s Reuben a couple of times and it never ceased to disappoint me. A stingy serving of corned beef, over-powered by the ‘kraut on over-toasted commercial rye…

    Nice to hear that Pearson’s is using Village Bakery rye. My biggest complaint about every Reuben (and pastrami) around here is the miserable quality of the bread. Mac’s Reuben and their pastrami would be near transcendent if only they used something better than that soft, texture-free, cellophane-packed square rye bread. It’s sinful to think that, with so many great bakeries within an hour or two of here, the best we can expect when it comes to rye bread is something that comes off the Sysco truck.

  4. Best Reuben is at Max’s on 4th st. Just feels right eating a reuben at Max’s. We moved away a few yrs ago, but every time we visit SR we make a trip up to Max’s for some food and great ambiance. The staff is great! Try to eat there and NOT see the staff give at least 5 regular’s a hug or kiss when they come in! Just an all around great place

  5. Sorry folks…. but the county’s best Reuben is made at Lokal in Sonoma. Well worth the drive… hell, well worth the walk to Sonoma.

  6. The best Rueben is at Noah’s in Petaluma. A bagel shop yes, but they make a great sandwich and hearty portions! Try the “Pastrami Rachael”, on grilled marbled rye, with pastrami, swiss, coleslaw,
    mustard and 1000 island dressing. What a flavor combination. The coleslaw has a slight horseradishy
    aftertaste. They also serve a traditional Rueben. Plus you get a side of fresh fruit and an entire dill pickle included in the price of 7.95. NO I don’t work for them or know anyone who does. I just believe they have the best around!

  7. Best Corned Beef Reuben i’ve had west of the Mississippi (ie New Yark) was at, surprise, the Railroad Square Omellet Express on Fourth St.. I brought my mom in for lunch and we experienced.the most savory corned beef I’ve had in a long while. I suppose their corn beef hash must be good too. I will definately have it the next time I’m in there for breakfast. Hat’s off to Don!

  8. Surprise, surprise… Mr. Silvers gets a nod from Bite Club. Fancy that!

    I’m trying not to be a hater here, but it surely gets old when every article on BCE waxes poetic about Jacksons/Syrah. They’re nice places to eat, but c’mon… it almost sounds like Heather’s on the payroll.

    In fact, as an avid follower of the local SRC food scene, I find it bemusing that in all the ranting and raving about Munch Monday that Heather has done in championing the cause of the mobile food vendors and at the same time vilifying downtown restaurants, there in not once does she shed light on the fact that Mr. Silvers himself and the other restaurateurs of Railroad Square REJECTED the proposal to move food trucks to a location nearby west of the freeway…

    or was that La Vera too???

    Uh oh, I’ve blasphemed. I’m not very confident that this comment will post very long/at all.

    1. Hey David. You’re not wrong, but you may be looking at it from an overly paranoid perspective.

      I do give Josh a lot of nods — and here is why. I’m not on the payroll (nor have I ever accepted a free meal) but I really like Josh’s food personally. I spend a lot of time at Jackson’s (just meeting friends/business) so i’m pretty familiar with the menu. Aside from that, Josh and his wife Regina update me on things that are new on the menu via email and Facebook. Smart. Long story short — they make my job really easy. It’s the same with the Starks’ restaurants. They are responsive and easy to work with. And I personally like the food. The hilarious thing is that if i leave out either of these two, someone inevitably chimes in.

      My job is very time consuming, and a lot of chefs don’t make it easy for me to highlight them. I have to call repeatedly, their menus aren’t updated online, staff aren’t helpful in passing along messages, etc. I’m out in the field every day, and try to always dig up new info, but these wrap-ups (which if you’re a print reader, you’ll realize are for the Season) are a TON of work and I can’t always call 2-3 dozen restaurants repeatedly. This isn’t everyone, but trust me, if you LIKE me on Facebook and send me emails, you’re probably going to be more top of mind when i write a story just due to the sheer volume of what i have to crank out each week.

      The process: WHat i write about comes from what I’m emailed/what’s online/Facebook thoughts/who i’ve talked to in person recently (I saw Brian from Bistro 29 yesterday and was rapping with him about his menu, so expect to see something on that soon), what I personally like and where I’ve been recently. There’s no magic formula. It’s pretty subjective.

      You also can’t pay for my support. While I VERY MUCH appreciate the ad dollars and am thrilled to acknowledge them if there’s a compelling reason (ie: the current ad for Bruno’s on Fourth, which I really dig), i pick who and when i write about. It’s not dictated to me.

      As for the Railroad square food truck thing…I have talked about railroad square’s rejection of the trucks, and I support the rejection. Unlike Munch Monday, the trucks were proposing going into the parking lot near Jackson’s on a Friday or Saturday night. I spoke to Josh, and while he and several other RR Square restaurateurs were generally supportive of the trucks, they felt that their infrastructure couldn’t support the weight of a weekend night. Also, it’s a different beast to have the truck next door and have folks coming in to use your bathrooms than having the trucks several blocks away on a Monday afternoon. Caltrans rejected the trucks going under the freeway, so there were limited spaces that could accommodate them. It was a very different situation, and in speaking to the trucks, I think one that they understood.

      I’m a sensible person, Mark, and I know what I’m talking about when it comes to the local food scene. I don’t delete posts because people disagree with me. Ever. You must not be a longtime BiteClubber, or you’d already know that.

      1. Thanks for the introspection. A fair self-critique.
        There’s so much going on in the local food scene that I welcome yours and Jeff’s help in just keeping up with it.

    2. While its ok to criticize if you explain your reasons, (and you did), I wonder if your expectations are a bit too high. There is no such thing as an unbiased reviewer, whether amateur like me or professional like Heather. I’d submit that if the reviewer is fairly consistent (i.e: Jeff Cox, Roger Ebert, Dan Berger), we can recognize their personal ‘filter’ and take from their review what we will. I don’t always agree with the above mentioned, but I certainly feel like I can draw a conclusion from what they write.

    3. Heather has been posting on her page asking everyone where is their favorite Reuben for at least a month!
      I put mine in, Aioli Delicatessen in Forestville, and sure enough Heather checked it out. She gives everyone ample time to send in comments, their favorites or Dislikes as well ( have never seen her delete a negative post unless it had profanity or slander),
      she is one person and can’t be everywhere at once. I have actually gone and check out some of her FB fans and readers favorites and appreciate the forum on this page. Because I LOVE to cook and I LOVE to eat!! keep ’em coming Heather… now I have to find gluten free favorites, just got told that I have a slight gluten allergy dammit

      1. Bliss Bakery on Sebastopol Avenue (in the SofA area) has Gluten-free baked goods! Has a few other items on their menu, too!
        It’s right by the Peace and Justice Center. The vegetarian restaurant, “Seed” used to be in that location…

  9. An alternative to a Reuben, for those of you who don’t eat beef, is a Rachael. It’s a Rueben made with turkey and is really delicious! It’s not on the menu, but Willie Bird’s will be more than happy to make it for you…

  10. Pearson’s has an awesome Reuben they serve on Village Bakery Rye, but they only serve it on Thursdays. I wish they had it everyday. In fact, I’m going to call them tomorrow to complain about it.

  11. Try togo’s Reuben as well and it’s only about 6 bucks compared to those other expenisve sandwiches.

  12. My absolute favorite is at ZIN! It is actually Pastrami, but it rocks! It runs as a seasonal lunch special and folks clamor to order one of the limited number before they are gone for the day. Every piece of the sandwich is made by Zin or at their Eastside Farm. YUM!!!

    1. Oh! that sounds so good. I always wish Jeff would post more menu stuff online! I forget to include their yumminess sometimes! Jeff/Susan…are you listening? hee hee. they’re probably out actually working. 🙂

      1. Yes, Heather, we were out working; baking bread for the bake sale for Japan at Doralice’s Cheese Shop in Healdsburg, getting ready for another fundraiser at Shimo Modern Steak on Monday, taking care of the chickens, smoking ham…and tending to the farm & restaurant!

        Since you asked, I guess I should tell you all about our new fabulous Pork Trio – a trio of house cured pork! It is a mini Pork Pastrami sandwich, Buttermilk Biscuit with Jeff’s ham and 2 Andouille Corn Dogs served with house made sauerkraut and bread & butter pickles!

        Thanks for all you do for the food community!

  13. I haven’t tried all the recs above, so maybe this is unfair, but color me skeptical: A proper Reuben depends most critically on two things, freshly baked Jewish rye bread, and properly corned beef. The rest is rounding error after that. And that is where my beloved SoCo inevitably falls short of the mark, because we simply don’t have – or at least I’ve yet to find – the critical mass of Jewish delis required to produce the vital ingredients.

    I’m desperately hoping that someone chimes in and points out the error of my ways with directions to a great delicatessen, or somebody who is doing justice to the underlying components …

    1. You are, of course, right. You also can’t find a proper bagel or Matzo ball soup in these parts either. The bagel thing breaks my heart most of all. What I’d give for nice chewy, salted NY bagel.

      But have you ever tried to get a decent fish taco anywhere east of Fresno? Fuggetaboutit. We all have our regional specialties.

      True that SoCo Reubens aren’t exactly “proper” but they are good in their own right. I think Mac’s is the closest to a NY style. Jackson’s is solid as well. What I loved about the one at Fresh is the California twist of organic sauerkraut (better than the crud you usually get out of a can at NY delis) and the seeded sourdough bread. It’s a Sonoma County Reuben. 🙂

      1. Bagels – have you ever tried Homegrown Bagels in Sonoma? I went to New York and Homegrown’s were better than what I had there.

      2. @Heather – couldn’t agree more about bagels, AND about the lack of good Mex east of I5.

        @Elizabeth – there are thousands of lousy bagels in NYC, but IMHO the dozens of truly great ones are in an entirely different class from Homegrown, Grateful, Downtown and all the other “round breads with a hole in the middle” that I’ve had in SoCo (as well as SF, LA, and most of the rest of the world, as far as that goes)

        1. “Jewish rye” just refers to a specific type of rye bread, historically baked by Jews, but by no means exclusively so!

  14. The best Rubin in Sonoma County bar none is served at Barn Diva in Healdsburg. The fenced in, decomposed granite patio—complete with waterfall—is the perfect spring or summer day venue for the perfect Rubin.

  15. When I had the Rueben Dog at Taps, it included pastrami as a “condiment”. Has that changed?

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