The winning sandwich is a sophisticated and occasionally drippy concoction: corned beef (from Salisbury’s Freirich Foods) and Gruyere cheese, with sauerkraut doctored in-house with rehydrated juniper berries, a housemade dressing made with the Thai chile sauce called sriracha, and the unconventional addition of housemade, sweet-edged, caraway-seeded slaw, all piled onto marbled rye and grilled, open-face, on a sandwich press. It’s then put together and served like a regular sandwich.
A classic, traditional Reuben? No. But it ups the ante on each ingredient, leaning to lushness at every opportunity.
Call it Reubenesque.
Its layered but hearty flavors handily topped a very good Cuban sandwich from Concord’s Havana Carolina Café, whose chunks of tender roast pork and overall proportions proved excellent but whose bread simply wasn’t crusty enough.
But don’t assume the $7 Reuben had an easy time of it.
It narrowly escaped a loss in the Beef/Poultry semifinal, when the quietly exquisite, simply excellent fried chicken sandwich from The King’s Bakery nearly made the Reuben look frou-frou. More than one judge wished that matchup had been the championship. “Can you just switch them around?” asked entertainment editor Théoden Janes.
(He jested, of course: We in Food Tournament Land take our brackets deadly seriously.)
But without a doubt, that duo offered the toughest competition of the entire tournament. “I love Jimmy Noble (chef-owner of the Bakery, along with The King’s Kitchen and two Rooster’s in town),” said food editor Kathleen Purvis. “But I gotta say, that Reuben hits my happy spot.”
The chicken sandwich is the only meal item the Bakery sells; its other comestibles are breads and confections. For $5.95, the sandwich is enormous and puts a beautifully seasoned breast within an exceedingly fresh ciabatta roll, with mustard-seed-and-carrot-studded slaw: a well-thought-out, well-executed thing. To quote Janes, who says he evaluated on an “‘I-would-like-to-eat-that-very-often’ scale”: This is “easily a $10 sandwich at a place that has tablecloths and servers who wear black. It’s also amazing to me that a bakery (of all places) has the best fried chicken I’ve tasted in town this side of Price’s.”
The Cuban ($5.99) had won the Poultry/Other bracket with ease when the Common Market’s Hot Mama ($5.50) – a combo of fresh spinach, Havarti, tomato, red pepper and red onion – arrived on bread that, as Purvis noted, tasted distinctly stale, with a taste-free tomato.
Congratulations to Jeff Tonidandel and Paul Manley of both Growlers and the sibling (and next-door) Crepe Cellar on the win.