When it comes to eating sandwiches at restaurants, aside from the traditional burger or a unique and gourmet oddity, odds are good we’re going to defer to one of our favorites: the Reuben.
This sandwich has just about everything we could ask for in a go-to choice. A mound of corned beef, a handful of sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and a generous slathering of Thousand Island dressing is enough to make us happy if we’re in the mood for our favorite sandwich.
Unfortunately, not all restaurants are equal when it comes to sandwich making, and more often than not the Reuben is the hardest to get right. But when they do, odds are good that they can make anything delicious and are a good spot worth returning to in order to try more creations.
As a result, our quest to find Pittsburgh’s best Reuben was born!
As with all posts on this site, this post is not a complete list of all Reubens in Pittsburgh. This list is a collection of all of the ones we’ve tried. So if your favorite restaurant is not featured, odds are good we haven’t visited- so let us know about it in the comments!
The Baseline Reuben That All Are Compared To
When it comes to discussing food items, I often make the distinction of how it compares to something I can make at home. After all, if I could prepare the item myself with just as good of taste, there really isn’t any point to go out to a restaurant and order one at an inflated price. Most restaurant menu items are so far beyond my capabilities that it is a moot point, but sandwiches are something I can do quite well- so they face a bit of extra scrutiny in this regard.
One restaurant in particular makes a Reuben that I would say is on par with our abilities, and that would be The Deli sandwich shop in the North Side and Lawrenceville.
This Reuben is about as middle-of-the-road as you can get with higher-end processed meats and ingredients identical to what you can get at any grocery store or deli, naturally. There is nothing incredibly special about this one, but nothing negative about it either as it is simply a solid Reuben all around just like I’d make myself. A decent amount of meat, good bread, nice spread of sauce, but nothing really unique.
As far as baselines go, this is it, and all of the Reubens we tried in this post will be compared to this one as a reference point.
The Deli has two locations in Pittsburgh- one on Butler street in Lawrenceville and one on North Ave in the North Side.
Below Average Reubens in Pittsburgh
So how can a Reuben be below average? If you would’ve asked me this before starting research for this article, I probably would’ve said it is all focused on the construction of the sandwich. I expect Reuben’s to be packed with meat and generously topped with sauerkraut and dressing with a sturdy rye bread to hold it all together. (That is to say, incredibly unhealthy.) Skimp on any one of these, and I’m going to be disappointed.
Even with the above baseline Reuben to keep in mind, this description of below average Reubens still works, and sadly we’ve found a few that fall into this category.
Unfortunately, the Reuben at Six Penn not only skimped on the meat and the toppings to a considerable degree, the meat also seemed to be pretty dry compared to its comparable (and greasier) counterparts. I managed to finish this one, but I did not devour it like I would normally do.
Six Penn is located at 146 Sixth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh.
Industry Public House
Although we thoroughly enjoyed our other entree at Industry Public House, their Reuben also falls under the rare miss category for us as it was rather lacking on the sauce and only was slightly redeemed with a moderately generous portion of meat.
Industry Public House is located at 4305 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
Above Average Reubens in Pittsburgh
Any Reuben that is above average would start exceeding what we can do ourselves (or you can order at The Deli as above).
Restaurants that are above average start to push the boundaries more on a Reuben sandwich and do anything from making their own corned beef and toppings, to procuring specialty ingredients, and giving out generous portions for their price. For lack of a better expression, these places know what it means to put out a good Reuben, and if you want something full of flavor and dripping with sauce, these are pretty good even if there may be slight room for improvement.
Nova Cafe in Millvale is one of those places you may walk by and not take a second look at. This unassuming diner is just that, and to be honest we ended up here through sheer chance on one of our many runs to Draai Laag just a few blocks away. That being said, when I saw the Reuben on the menu and was given the recommendation by the friendly employees, I knew I had to try it. The Reuben itself is a slight step above our baseline with a decent helping of meat, above average and crispy bread, and the thousand island dressing is served on the side (allowing you to apply as much as you want- a win for me)- so overall, a tasty diner Reuben at its core.
Nova Cafe is located at 224 Grant Avenue in Millvale.
Tracy’s Deli in the North Side was recommended to us by Randy from Randyland, and although theirs may be on the smaller side as far as sandwiches go, they make up for it with great ingredients and extra dressing added.
Tracy’s Deli is located at 1926 Spring Garden Avenue in Spring Garden on the North Side.
Max’s Allegheny Tavern
Max’s Allegheny Tavern in the North Side may be famous for its traditional German sausages and schnitzels, but their Reuben is on point with aged pumpernickel bread, homemade sauerkraut, and their own special dressing. (Or if you want to try something different, you can also order it stuffed between two potato pancakes instead which is simply divine!)
Max’s “famous” Reuben falls short of the excellent category for us only because the meat does not jump out as being anything special beyond what you can get at any other store. That being said, it is still delicious.
Max’s Allegheny Tavern is located at 537 Suismon Street in the North Side.
Modern Cafe in the North Side has won many awards for their Reuben, and rightfully so- they make a delicious offering. Although this sandwich offers generous proportions of ingredients, I have to be honest in saying that the quantity is what makes this one special and not so much any one ingredient being unique.
Modern Cafe is located at 862 Western Avenue in the North Side.
Nu Modern Jewish Bistro
Nu Modern Jewish Bistro in Squirrel Hill does not seem like it would be the place to have a delicious Reuben, but their iteration of this sandwich gets an above average rating from us thanks to their house smoked corn beef that is available on just about every sandwich they offer. As far as good corned beef goes, this one is one of the best!
Nu Modern Jewish Bistro is located at 1711 Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill.
Big Jim’s in the Run
Big Jim’s in the Run hits on just about everything you look for in a popular diner. Huge portions, cheap prices, and a large following. Shortly after publishing this guide we asked on Facebook where to head for our next batch of Reubens, and Big Jim’s was one of the most popular responses. Within just a few days, we were there.
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To put it bluntly, the Reuben at Big Jim’s doesn’t disappoint. It is massive, packed full of meat and a generous amount of toppings, and follows the menu at Big Jim’s and comes in at about $10.
The Reuben is among the best in the city, but the bread lacked a grilled, buttery flavor we adore in our Reubens and the meat could stand to be slightly better quality. That being said, this one is still incredibly delicious and is well worth the journey to try out.
Big Jim’s is located at 201 Saline Street in Four Mile Run, just south of Oakland.
Excellent Reubens in Pittsburgh
When we start throwing around the excellent distinction for Reubens, you can be certain these sandwiches are as close to perfect as you can get. This means perfectly grilled bread, a large mound of corned beef that is neither dry nor similar to traditional deli meat, ample dressing, and an overall package that gets consumed as fast as possible.
Riley’s Pour House
Shortly after publishing this post, we became rather flooded with recommendations from our readers on more Reubens to check out. One that we heard about time and time again was the Reuben at Riley’s Pour House in Carnegie, so we knew we had to make it there first.
This Irish pub serves up a menu full of sandwiches and pub fare with some killer weeknight specials. Their Reuben, an obvious fan favorite, clocks in at just under $10 and kills it on just about everything we look for in a Reuben – ample meat, crispy bread that practically falls apart when you bite into it, a heaping mound of sauerkraut, and cooked to perfection. The only negative was that the sandwich, as served, was a bit dry and could’ve used more dressing- something easily fixed by asking for more!
Riley’s Pour House is located at 215 East Main Street in Carnegie.
Smallman Street Deli
Smallman Street Deli in Squirrel Hill* offers a Reuben that has been in our regular rotations for years as it has what is quite possibly the largest offering of corned beef out of any sandwich featured in this list.
They are also famous for the Rachel, the counterpart of the Reuben which swaps out the sauerkraut for coleslaw which is just as worthy of an alternative if sauerkraut is not your thing.
After trying this one several times, you may also want to sample their Reuben stuffed between two latkes (potato pancakes) which although delicious, is maybe just a step below their famous Reuben as the Rye bread is simply fantastic. (Although their latkes are a perfect side with your sandwich if you have room!)
Smallman Street Deli has two locations in Pittsburgh- one in the Strip District and one in Squirrel Hill; however, we are partial to the Squirrel Hill location.
Scratch Food and Beverage
Scratch Food and Beverage in Troy Hill does not offer a traditional Reuben as you’d expect and features a sandwich with beef tongue and pickled beet kraut as the primary ingredients. Where I would potentially disqualify this type of sandwich for not being in the spirit of the Reuben, the only thing I can say about this one is that it works.
You know you’re not eating a traditional Reuben, but some how the flavors of the beef tongue and beet kraut come together to make a sandwich that is everything a Reuben should be- just different.
My only wish is that this one was a permanent- but that is the burden you have at a restaurant that uses local and seasonal ingredients as best they can. Keep an eye out for it!
Scratch Food and Beverage is located at 1720 Lowrie Street in Troy Hill.
Braddock’s American Brasserie
Braddock’s American Brasserie at the Renaissance Hotel is an odd place to find one of the city’s best Reubens, but out of all of the Reubens we’ve tried so far, “The Big Ugly” is quite possibly the best.
This Reuben is a monster, there is no other way to say it. This sandwich is large enough to feed two comfortably, includes cured pastrami, kielbasa, and a whole lot more that makes this sandwich a sloppy mess packed full of flavor. Throw in the incredible whiskey bar at Braddock’s Street Side (where they serve the full restaurant menu), and you really can’t go wrong!
Braddock’s Brasserie is located inside the Renaissance Hotel at 107 Sixth Street in downtown Pittsburgh.
We’re always trying new Reubens in the city to expand this guide. Have a favorite you’d like to recommend? Share it below and we will visit to try it out!
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