A few weeks ago I was perusing a couple of menus online, trying to pick a place to eat with friends, when I realized that there are not one, not two but five plus restaurants in D.C. offering vegetarian Reuben sandwiches. Intrigued, I decided as BYT’s vegetarian food writer it was my responsibility to explore these different versions and report back. How dissimilar could these Reubens be from each other? Surprisingly, they varied dramatically. From beets to mushrooms to tempeh, read on to see how creative local chefs are getting with this classic American sandwich.
On Rye: The Beet Reuben
As a Jewish deli, I had high hopes for this new venue’s Reuben sandwiches and it did not disappoint. I was happy to discover that the restaurant actually offers two vegetarian Reubens: a beet and gouda Reuben and a Portobello and broccoli Reuben. Order the beet option. While the Portobello version is also tasty, the beet version takes Reubens to a new level. Not only is it more unique, but it wins in the flavor department. The beets are smoked, which lessens their sweetness and adds a deep, charred flavor. The Gouda is an excellent match to the beets, bringing a buttery, nutty notes to the sandwich. Enjoy it for $10. Order with a side of tangy coleslaw and a chocolate egg cream to wash it down.
Fare Well: The Tempeh Reuben
Of all the veggie Reubens I tried, this one was the “meatiest.” Hunks of tempeh are smothered with a creamy vegan Russian dressing, sandwiched between beautiful, crisped marbled rye bread. Saukerkraut brings its classic acidic and sour notes and a mild cashew Swiss cheese is melted into the tempeh to add a cheesy element. A pile of shoestring fries are a fine side. It’s offered for $12.
The Coupe: The Mixed Mushroom Reuben
The Coupe offers hearty vegetarian Reuben heaped with loads of chopped mushrooms, baby bellas, shiitakes and white button mushrooms, sautéed and piled on to buttery, colorful rye bread. Saukerkraut, Swiss cheese and sweet sun dried aioli round out the sandwich, which is then pressed to a crisp. The generous smear of sundried aioli is creamy and delicious, and the mushrooms have great texture and earthiness. $10 and comes with a side of fries.
Founding Farmers: The Classic Reuben
Founding Farmers features a veggie Reuben on their meatless menu, and it is simplest and most classic of all the veggie Reubens. Mushrooms are served on a bed of kraut and topped with Swiss cheese, sandwiched between house made seeded rye bread. I prefer marbled rye, it’s prettier and has more flavor, but the seeded rye at Founding Farmers is especially fresh. One of the healthiest veg Reubens, it’s not too cheesy, the bread isn’t too buttery, and it comes with a side salad. Offered for $13.
Galaxy Hut: The Make-Your-Own-Reuben
At Galaxy Hut you can make your own veggie Reuben. They recommend smoked tempeh, but you could use vegan bacon or vegan chicken. Some of the other ingredients are classic Reuben: sauerkraut, rye bread and Russian dressing, but you can choose from a variety of cheeses, including vegan cheddar, or stick to Swiss. The Russian dressing is available in a vegan version as well. At $9.50 it is the most reasonably priced vegetarian Reuben.
If you’re going to try one vegetarian Reuben, beet is best.