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. We'll start with the baseline all Reubens are compared to, then work our way through below average, above average, and the very best Reubens in the city!
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! Likewise, we also are including items that are in the spirit of a Reuben in this one as well and have a few, well, unusual ones featured within.
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 Reubens 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.
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.
During our visit to City Works in Market Square a unique Reuben iteration caught my eye- the duck Reuben. This is everything you know and love about a traditional Reuben, except swapping out the corned beef for duck leg.
We're never ones to turn down one fatty meat for an even fattier one, so we jumped on this one. While the flavors of the duck worked well with the relatively strong toppings, one thing was a bit off on this one for us and it was that the duck was significantly overcooked to the point of being tough.
Had the duck been cooked better we would probably bump this one up to a higher category as the flavors themselves really were quite good, but it is also a gamble that fell flat for us due to the preparation. Hopefully we were an exception on a bad night for this one.
City Works is located at 2 PPG Place in Market Square.
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.
If you know Kaibur Coffee in Polish Hill, you probably already know what this Reuben is all about- it is vegan. Yes, somehow they have managed to create a corned beef saitan Reuben that is not only passable for the sandwich we all know and love, but is also quite good too!
This one is probably closer to baseline Reuben versus being truly above average beyond the novelty, but the crispy bread, proportions of toppings to “meat”, and everything all around made this one quite enjoyable for its $7 price tag. The texture of the saitan corned beef is probably the only real miss on this sandwich, but all things considered it is a worthy iteration worth trying.
Kaibur Coffee is located at 3138 Dobson Street in Polish Hill.
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 (now known as Strange Roots) 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.
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.
If you think of yourself as a Reuben fanatic, Dive Bar in Lawrenceville is for you. This spot has gone all-in on Reubens and offers various iterations like Reuben rolls, a traditional Reuben sandwich, a Reuben burger, and a Reuben bowl to name a few.
I was going to go for the traditional Reuben until our waitress talked me into the bowl (found under their “I Hate Vegetables” section of the menu) after saying it was a customer favorite. This one is essentially a big bowl of fries topped with the filling of a Reuben sandwich, and wouldn't be far fetched to be called a Pittsburgh Reuben Salad- because who needs lettuce, really?
It was quite the calorie bomb as it is a massive plate (which is not captured well at all in the photo we took), and I am a bit ashamed to say I ate it all in a single sitting.
Ignoring my gluttony, the layers of corned beef, slaw, and dressing worked well enough on their own, and the fries soaked up the rest for a bit of starch thrown into the mix. Excessive? Definitely. But I wont tell if you wont.
Dive Bar has two locations in Pittsburgh. One in South Side and one in Lawrenceville. We visited the Lawrenceville location at 5147 Butler Street for this Reuben.
Let's get something out of the way right off. The Reuben at Bakn is not your traditional Reuben. Instead of corned beef, you have crispy pork belly. Instead of thousand island dressing, you have baconnaise. The sauerkraut even has bacon bits in it for good measure.
Put all of this on rye bread, and somehow it all comes together to taste, well, oddly like a Reuben.
You have to be in a pork mood for this one, and very obviously have to send reason out the window, but a pork inspired Reuben at Bakn somehow works. You may leave with the meat sweats, but if an unusual take on this famous sandwich is what you seek Bakn will not disappoint.
Bakn is located at 335 E Main Street in Carnegie.
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.
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.
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!
For more reviews of Pittsburgh restaurants, click the previous link to be taken to our directory of every review on Discover the Burgh!
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