Saturday, March 22, 2014

Episode XXV: Manuel's Tavern (ATL)

Episode XXV was more than a week in the making. We tried to go out for a Reuben on March 15th and struck out at several places.  I have started calling ahead now because some places have a Reuben on their website menu but will not have it when you order it. This is unacceptable. Manuel's Tavern in Poncey-Highlands came to the rescue. 

I have been in Atlanta for about two years now and I have not been to all of the places but I have at least heard of most. I had never heard of Manuel’s. It had great reviews online and I was craving a Reuben.

“Turkey or corned beef on grilled marbled rye with sauerkraut and Swiss. 1000 island on the side."

Appearance – (3.1/5.0)
Not much of a wow factor with this one. I think the Chef would be disappointed to know that my server presented the dish with the sandwich on the far side. It seems distant and you cannot see all of the goodness that is inside. So I helped him out a bit.

There, that’s better. You can also see the marbling on the rye from this angle and the overflowing cheese is almost enough to distract you from the toothpicks.

Quality Of Ingredients – (4.3/5.0)
Good stuff on this one. The sandwich was prepared in what I like to call the Philly cheesesteak style. This makes it harder to really get a grasp of each individual ingredient. The one exception is the 1000 island. I was surprised when the sandwich came and I saw that on the side. I did not remember ordering it that way and I didn’t.  Looking back at the menu it is advertised that way.  Super tasty. I asked our server if it was homemade and he said yes, but he did not seem too sure of his answer.  The rye held its own despite being on the burned side of “grilled”.

Price – (4.7/5.0)
The price point of $8.25 is about right for the portion size but what gives it such a high score is everything that came with it, not the least of which is plentiful free parking. This place has two adjacent lots that are reserved just for Manuel’s.  Furthermore, each table has not one, not two, but three ketchup bottles ready to go.  We sat in one of the large dining rooms and most of the TVs were on one of the NCAA tournament games. The one directly in front of us was on commercial.  Two minutes later I realized it was still on the same thigh/butt toning infomercial. I was starting to feel guilty watching all of these healthy people tone their lower body while my lazy ass was drinking a beer and preparing to dominate a Reuben. Our server changed the channel to the game and all was right in the world.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (4.2/5.0)
This is a great not-so-little neighborhood bar. We got there after the brunch but before the lunch crowd. It was quiet but you can tell the place gets packed. The 1000 island on the side threw me.  Sometimes I get worried I am going to run out of things to write about Reubens and little things like that keep me going. If anyone from Manuel’s is reading this can you let me know if the 1000 is actually homemade?

Taste – (9.0/10.0)
One advantage of having the 1000 island on the side is you can make sure you get some on each bite. The portion they give you is big enough to put a lot on each bite if you want. It tastes great but it is heavy. There was more than enough butter on the bread and that plus the richness of the 1000 island can be too much. After a few 1000 island bites I cleansed by palate with fries and ketchup then I was ready to go back in. Tender beef and lots of good melted Swiss made it easy to enjoy without piling on the 1000 island.

Overall – (25.3/30.0)
I would say this score accurately reflects the experience.  Manuel’s is close by and I can see myself going there again for sure. My wife got the pulled pork and it was not the best, very porky (Good thing I don’t write a BBQ blog huh?). Other than that they have a good beer selection and even craft sodas.  The wife really did like her Root Beer.
Would I order it again? Yes.

Well done Manny.
Manuel's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Episode XXIV: Ormsby's (ATL)

Welcome to a very special episode of the Reuben Ranger. We are celebrating our one year anniversary! I started this blog under very difficult personal circumstances last year.

In July 2012 my wife as diagnosed with brain cancer (Medulloblasta tumor).  She had surgery to remove it in August 2012 and spent six weeks in the hospital. Then came six weeks of radiation treatment. In December 2012 she and my then 1 year old son moved to Ohio to be with her family and complete her physical therapy. I stayed back in Atlanta to work and would visit when I could. I was struggling with depression and found the best way to cope was to keep busy. Some of the folks in the hospital suggested I keep a journal. Writing was an outlet and a way to stay sane. I could not picture myself keeping a journal and I thought about starting a blog instead. It came down to an Eggs Benedict or Reuben blog. Then the Reuben Ranger was born.

Our situation has greatly improved. My wife’s recovery is nothing short of a miracle. She moved back to Atlanta and the family is together, happy and healthy. She now serves as Chief Editor of this blog. Mindful of what this blog has meant to me, we move forward. Or as my mom has always told me, “a seguir adelante”.  
One of my co-workers suggested I try Ormsby's in Atlanta. I had no reason to doubt Katherine. She seemingly makes any hairstyle look fabulous so how could she be wrong?

the art of the reuben (uncle art that is)
“piled with corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, & thousand island, grilled pumpernickel”

Appearance – (3.8/5.0)
More and more places are doing these pizza pans today. I think it is cool and I guess it must make doing dishes easier. They took the time to cut the Reuben and for good reason. The color of the meat packs a punch and you can see the melted cheese.
I think they may have forgotten about the pumpernickel on the grill; it was black. I am trying to stop mentioning toothpicks but come on. Look at this one. Only one half has it and it is on the corner.  Imagine the sandwich as a two tier green and the fries as a sand trap; the pickle can be an algae infested water hazard. I would aim for the middle front of the top tier and try to putt up the hill. It would be better to miss short and land in the bunker than fly the green. It looks like a doable up-and-down if you do land in the bunker.

Quality Of Ingredients – (4.5/5.0)
The texture of the brisket corned beef was unlike any other Reuben on this blog. It really did look and feel like a smoked brisket. The pumpernickel was a bit burned but did hold the contents of the sandwich well. The melted cheese was creamy but the sauerkraut was difficult to distinguish.

Price – (4.4/5.0)
Ten bucks, that’s not bad at all. I think the portion size was just right.
Ormsby's is a great place, if you can find the door. The ring game downstairs is addicting and you can always play shuffleboard.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (4.7/5.0)
Who is uncle art? I have to meet this guy.
I was in a really good mood when I was here. We had just seen UVA beat up on GT, it was a beautiful day, and I knew this was going to be the anniversary episode for the Reuben Ranger. All of this came together and really made me enjoy the experience.

Taste – (9.1/10.0)
This seems to have been crafted as a Reuben for the masses. The strong, sometimes pungent, flavors of rye and sauerkraut have been removed and muted respectively. It did do a great job of showcasing the corned beef. No mention of the thousand island because I could not really taste it. All and all it was a great tasting Reuben.

Overall – (26.5/30.0)
Would I order it again, yes!  There is some serious love that went into the preparation and it comes out in the taste. The scene is great. How cool would it be to live right by there and spend your Atlanta snow days drinking beer and playing that ring game?
Thank you to everyone who has given love and support over the past year. This episode is dedicated to you.
Keep the recommendations coming and I look forward to trying them out!

Ormsby's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Episode XXIII: Wrecking Bar Brewpub (ATL)

In the early days of the Reuben Ranger the scope of the blog was narrow. Reubens only.  A co-worker told me about the House Pastrami Sandwich at the Wrecking Bar Brewpub and suggested I check it out for the blog. It certainly sounded like it was created in the spirit of a Reuben but it was not called one. I emailed the Wrecking Bar to ask if they ever considered adding a Reuben to the menu and they actually wrote back with a great description of their House Pastrami. It was this series of events that compelled me to add Reuben-inspired sandwiches to the blog. After trying it, I was glad I did.

House Pastrami Sandwich
“Painted Hills brisket, house cured & smoked, baby collards kimchi, Korean chili-garlic mayo & baby Swiss, marbled rye”

Appearance – (4.2/5.0)
Pretty standard presentation of the sandwich itself and the rest of the plate complement it well. The pickle’s crinkle cut really stood out and I was so happy to see a Reuben without toothpicks.  A Reuben sans toothpicks and nobody died, nobody spilled on themselves, and nobody missed them. Bravo!

Quality Of Ingredients – (4.8/5.0)
This sandwich was an excellent combination of quality fundamental ingredients taken to the next level by flawless culinary execution.  They have taken the time to make their own brine and have nailed just the right amount of smoke. Smoke is not an ingredient you hear about on this blog but it was no doubt a foundational ingredient.  All of this comes together to make a phenomenal pastrami. There is more about it in the taste section.  Bottom line is they started with solid ingredients and knew what to do with them.

Price – (4.1/5.0)
$11. My son can count to 11 so it can’t be that high, but anything in double digits better be worth it.  When I reached out to the management, they really detailed the time and effort that goes into creating the dish. I have to admit that it does come out in the taste. The atmosphere was very warm and welcoming. The service was prompt without feeling rushed. Tough to crack a 4.0 at $11 but they did.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (4.0/5.0)
 Oddly enough, my wife and I came away from this experience talking about the fact that our server brought us separate checks. We didn’t know what to think and just laughed about it. That has not happened in the seven years we have been together.
This sandwich may have exposed a flaw in my rating system because it does not score overwhelmingly high in this category. The quality and strengths of the sandwich were front and center. There was not much mystery about what made it so good. One thing different was that it had a spicy element.  That chili-garlic mayo has a slow burn that I enjoyed.

Taste – (9.7/10.0)
Salt, smoke, and fat. Boom! Salt + smoke I think of a great piece of smoked Salmon. Salt + fat, think French fries. Fat + smoke, hmm. What has fat and smoke but not a whole lot of salt… Remember folks, I’m an amateur here.
The meat in this sandwich had a great blend of the three. There may have been just a bit too much salt. I tried my wife’s burger and I thought the same thing. The rye bread, which I have not mentioned yet, played a great supporting role. It let the stars shine but was there to answer the call when necessary.

Overall – (26.8/30.0)
Wow. Would I order it again? Yes! Even at $11. It was not the classic Reuben, but it is one I think every Reuben-lover out there would enjoy.

I also think it is great the manager took time to send me a detailed email about the sandwich. I take this blog seriously and it is nice to see other people do too. Top to bottom great experience and I can’t wait to go back.
Wrecking Bar Brewpub on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Episode XXII: The Globe (AHN)

It’s Saturday in Athens!
My college roommate’s little brother is a PhD student at UGA. That was as good excuse as any for us to go visit him and take in a Georgia football game. Go Dawgs!  (Going to have to add Dawgs to spell check.)
I had done some Reuben research before the trip but I did not want to be “that guy” and insist we go somewhere. When they suggested The Globe, I said sure! I knew they had a Reuben and I was excited for Athens, GA to get on the Reuben Ranger map. Incidentally, my roommate was present  for Episode III back at Lir in Boston. That Reuben was a disaster. I was hoping Episode XXII would be much better.

“Corned Beef with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and 1,000 Island on rye.”

Appearance – (4.2/5.0)
The game kicked off at 12:30, so after daylight drinking, stadium M&Ms, and popcorn, I was not that hungry. In order to give the Reuben all of my attention, I decided to forgo the fries and order the salad instead. Nice looking salad though. I think it frames the Reuben well. We do have toothpicks but they are clearly marked. There were also very visible signs of properly melted cheese.  Look at this side view.  I was pleased when this plate landed in front of me.

Quality Of Ingredients – (4.1/5.0)
The corned beef was very tender and sliced thin. The cheese was great and abundant. There have been too many times where I have had to hunt for the cheese. It is just as much of a binding agent as the 1,000 Island. It would not seem that they would work well together but they do! I wish more places would consider adding more cheese to their Reuben. The sauerkraut could have had some more zing but you knew it was there.

Price – (4.3/5.0)
This cost $8.49. I think that is very good considering we were out on a game night in Athens. The place was packed and had a great vibe. We also had a table by the windows so it was good for people watching. The portion could have been bigger, but given that I was not starving it worked out ok.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (4.0/5.0)
I needed a good Reuben. Sometimes I start to worry that the blog is a sounding board to complain about sub-par Reubens. I was happy when I saw this sandwich and it gave me some good vibes. Once I tasted it I knew I was in for a good one.  The marbling on the rye did throw me a bit. It is not so much marble as concentric circles. It makes the center of the bread look lonely.
Taste – (9.0/10.0)
Yep, we are up in the 9s. It was a good execution of good ingredients.  There was not too much salt and the temperature at serving was also perfect, which I believe enhanced the flavor. I may have burned my mouth on the first bite but it was perfect after that. I can be a fast eater (remember that part about me being a former fat kid?).  So when I am with other people I try to be conscious of that, but it's hard to slow down when you have a hot delicious sandwich starting right at you.

Overall – (25.6/30.0)

Would I order it again? Yes!  Dave has a few years left in Athens and you can bet I will be back to see him and hopefully get back to The Globe.
Globe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Episode XXI: Rose & Crown Tavern (ATL)

I had been on something of a hot streak as a Broncos fan in Atlanta this year. The first 7 weeks of the season I was able to watch the Broncos game on TV; I was never this lucky in Boston. Finally in Week 8 the Falcons were out west playing the Cardinals at 4:15 and the Broncos were hosting the Redskins at the same time. No worries, this gave me a perfect excuse to go back to the Rose & Crown. The Broncos’ meetup of Atlanta is there every week. You may remember the Rose & Crown from Episode VII. Sunday Reuben and Broncos football, not a bad day.

Pub Reuben
“Toasted marble rye loaded with corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and Russian dressing”
I almost missed another jab at the Swiss because of the font but look closely. It looks like all caps but the R in Russian and the T in Toasted are bigger. That just must be how this font works.

Appearance – (3.4/5.0)
Fundamentals. This sandwich did poorly on the gimmies. Let’s break this down.
First the outside of the plate was not wiped down before it went out. There is a tiny bit of cheese or sauce there on the outside that caught my eye. Next the fries are all over the place. So much so that you can see Danny’s hand in the picture trying to straighten things out.

Finally, the toothpicks look like a bad hole placement on a miniature golf course. Toothpicks can be functional but there is no way those are serving a purpose. This sandwich had potential for a high score because of the nice marble and the great contrast in colors between the Russian dressing and the sauerkraut but poor execution cannot be overlooked.

Quality of Ingredients – (4.0/5.0)
This one had great individual pieces except the corned beef. The rye was buttery and toasted well, the sauerkraut really stood up well to the rest of the flavors, and the Russian dressing was great.  The corned beef was not as warm as it could have been and I think it came right out of a package. All of the pieces were uniform and I strongly doubt they made it on premises, much less sliced the meat to order. The beef was also too salty; I downed a couple mason jars of water after this one. It is too bad because the rest of the pieces were so good, but you cannot cut corners on the main ingredient.

On a related note, we had the Brownie Surprise for dessert and the same thing happened! The brownie was cold and stale but the ice-cream and whip cream were great. The bananas were fresh too.  I say just take out the brownie and call it a Sundae.

Price – (3.9/5.0)
The Pub Reuben is $9.50 but the Bella Reuben (Portobello mushrooms instead of the corned beef) is $9.25. The mushrooms tasted better than the beef, so if you are supposed to be paying a premium for the meat then I think something is wrong here. This score could have been lower but I do appreciate that the meal came with the Broncos game watch. The staff reserves an entire room for us and puts up our Broncos flag. They also brought Danny some crayons. You can always score points with me by being nice to Danny.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (3.8/5.0)
Despite the issues listed, this sandwich did ok here and I think it was the sauerkraut. The last time I was here I described it as “stiff” and I think that was true this time around as well. I mean this in a good way. There is a lot going on in a Reuben and the sauerkraut needs to be able to power through. It made me forget about the mediocre corned beef. I think this could have also suffered because of the fact that the Broncos were playing horribly when I was eating this.  Danny also decided to start acting up, so I put him on my lap and tried to eat this thing one-handed. Look at it. This or any Reuben is not meant for one-handed consumption.

Taste – (8.2/10.0)
This Reuben falls in the good-not-great category. The sauerkraut and the Russian dressing really carried the load and you can never go wrong with buttery toasted rye bread.  Yes, the corned beef was not what it could be, but there were still some good bites in there. I could not get Danny to try any of it but he sure did like the fries.

Overall – (23.3/30.0)
There is potential here but it is disappointing to see it squandered. Simple fixes on the presentation could go a long way. There may have to be a more serious discussion about what should happen with the corned beef.

The pieces of the puzzle are in place to make an outstanding Reuben, they just have to figure out the last one.  Would I order it again? No. Now that I have had both, I would order the Bella again. It had all the good elements of this one minus the beef!
Rose & Crown Tavern on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 18, 2013

Episode XX: Flying Saucer (SAT)

I know, I know. It has been a while since my last post. My inbox is overflowing with anxious, almost angry, emails from fans waiting for the next episode of the Reuben Ranger (Sarcasm). Well it is here and it’s a special one.

We go out west to San Antonio to visit the Flying Saucer. This place has a thinly veiled alcoholic start-up program that they call the UFO Club. You drink 200 beers and they put your name on a plate up on the wall.  There are mini awards along the way to keep you drinking.

You can only get credit for three drinks in one day so it is not really the binge drinking kind of alcoholism, it's more the slow-and-steady-three-beers-does-not-even-give-me-a-buzz kind. Turns out my sister and my brother-in-law have taken the bait and are well on their way to the plate. I am all for this, by the way; I wish they had one here in Atlanta.

“Pastrami, jalapeño-kraut, melted Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing on toasted marble rye.” 

Appearance – (3.8/5.0)
First impression here is the butcher paper on the plate. Hmmmm. We have seen brown paper bags, baskets, plates and butcher paper all working solo but this is an interesting combination. Not really sure what it does. I would say minimal value-added. You still have to wash the plate, right?

One slice of pastrami did not make it in. Oddly enough it looks like the sandwich is sticking its tongue out at me. It obviously does not know how this ends.

There is good marbling on the rye and you can see a slight hint of green in the kraut from the jalapeños.  Also the standard stray pickle and toothpicks; what can you do?

Quality Of Ingredients – (4.1/5.0)
All good stuff here. There is usually a weak link in almost every sandwich but that is not the case here. The pastrami had good flavor and was not too salty. The jalapeños could have had more kick to them.  You could tell the bread was rye without Caraway domination. I guess there was no weak link, but there were no superstars either.

Price – (3.9/5.0)
For San Antonio $8.29 is not cheap. There is also an 8.25% sales tax in the Lone Star State. The atmosphere was good and there were plenty of TVs with all kinds of college football on, so that keeps the score closer to 4.0.  What kept it below 4.0 was the portion size of the potato salad. They are stingy with that stuff. It was really good too, so it made me even more upset. I gave up ordering fries for that. In the end it is a good deal because our server was nice and you could tell she had a big heart.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (4.7/5.0)The “Esque”, as I like to call it, and the Flying Saucer in general were fun. The jalapeños mixed things up a bit in Reubenland.  I think the JNSQ was sitting at a 4.5 and our server gets credit for the last point 2.
Taste – (8.3/10.0)
I usually base my taste score on the quality of the ingredients then ask myself if the whole was greater than the parts. In this case I say the whole was greater (4.1x2=8.2) although not by much. I think just a little more of a kick from the jalapeño could have really taken this one to another level.  Solid ingredients put together make a solid sandwich. 

Overall – (24.8/30.0)

Would I order the Esuqe again? I am not sure. There are some other things on the menu I would want to try first before going back to the Esque. My wife had a burger that was superb and there are other menu items that feature the jalapeño-kraut.  I would go back to the Flying Saucer for sure and I look forward to doing so.

(This is Matthew, my favorite nephew)

Flying Saucer on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 23, 2013

Episode XIX: Malone's (ATL)

The blog has really caught on with my co-workers. Sometimes I don’t know if they are laughing with me or at me, but nonetheless, no fewer than 7 of them signed up for the latest Reuben adventure. We all went to Malone’s and it was Reubens all around, almost. Brett chose not to get one. This is actually his third Reuben adventure tag-a-long but he has yet to order one. He’ll cave eventually.

"Deli sliced pastrami, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and 1000 Island on grilled marble rye bread”
Again Swiss is not capitalized. I can tell you that MS Word spell check does underline it. This means they either think Word is wrong or they don’t care. Martina, I apologize on behalf of Malone’s and misspelled American menus everywhere.

Appearance – (3.8/5.0)
Good natural looking marble rye but let’s get right to it. It looks like there is a pastrami taco inside this sandwich. I have not seen this before. They slice the pastrami long enough to just stuff the sauerkraut in there. I have zoomed in a few times and I just don’t think I like it.

Quality Of Ingredients – (4.1/5.0)
The pastrami was actually pretty good but Charith did point out that it was a bit salty. (MS Word has issues with Charith) The 1000 Island by definition came out of a bottle and the sauerkraut was solid. The sauerkraut is so important to the Reuben taste profile and this one was good.

Price – (3.4/5.0)
$8.59 is not exactly cheap, with nothing to offset the price either. There is nothing special about the ambiance at Malone’s; it is a pretty standard restaurant. It does come with a pickle but I am not really crazy about them and the other guys were not either. Kyle was the big winner in this as he collected about five unwanted pickles on his plate.

I would also like to talk ketchup. Some places do the ketchup in a little cup on the plate. Can I just get a bottle of Heinz 57 on the table? I feel like they are being cheap with the ketchup. I usually preemptively order more when the server drops off the plate.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (3.2/5.0)  
Did they really fold the pastrami around the sauerkraut? I am having a hard time getting past that one. Not really an X-factor with this sandwich. It is one of the few pastrami Reubens on the blog, and I thought that alone would give it some points here but it has disappointed.

Taste – (8.3/10.0)
This was good, certainly not bad, but nothing outstanding. The folding sauerkraut is a doubled edged sword. It facilitates the perfect bite experience. I think the sauerkraut was tossed in the 1000 Island so there is no avoiding it. The problem was there was too much of the filling. On some bites the filling flushes out and you get a solo sauerkraut bite. Have you ever taken an initial small bite out of a Qdoba burrito and then just let everything inside of the burrito come out on the second bite? That is a good thing, solo sauerkraut is not.

Overall – (22.8/30.0)
Not the best Reuben experience. Maybe I should check these places out first before I invite a hoard of co-workers. Would I order it again? No. I had the meatloaf the time before this and it was awesome.

Malone's Steak & Seafood on Urbanspoon