Lunch begins, right at 12 noon, with a few sounds. There’s the metal clang of the spoon in the coffee cup and the crisp shucking of a Dallas Morning News metro section opening up from the diner counter patron the next seat over. The wooden cuckoo clock chirps, and somewhere down the long counter someone says, “Cuckoo! Cuckoo!” along with it. The bubbling murmur of conversation swells, and then there’s quiet. The quiet happens usually right as the corned beef Reuben lands on the table.
Kuby’s Reuben is the sandwich equivalent of autonomous sensory meridian response, a “low-grade euphoria” that’s reached when you hear long periods of soothing, calming sounds. You know that serene lull you feel when you’re watching Bob Ross paint some little trees on Netflix? That’s basically ASMR. Kuby’s Reuben is the Bob Ross of sandwiches. It’s a sensation. It’s also a Dallas treasure, an icon that’s somehow both decades old and supernaturally timeless.
Kuby’s restaurant has perched on the corner of Snider Plaza, with the bald eagle browns and German tavern font, since 1961. The Reuben’s been on the menu for at least 30 of those years. Every city has, or should have, a Reuben with soft rye that’s unanchored by trends or time, and this is Dallas’ Reuben.
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“We try to keep it simple,” patriarch Karl Kuby says in a short, humble burst. His family recipes go back centuries, but this is our city's good old-fashioned Reuben.
The corned beef starts with a brine bath, loads of juniper berries, bay leaf, plenty of salt and a touch of honey. It brines for a business week before cooking over seven or eight hours. The sauerkraut, pickled when it shows up at Kuby’s without much else, then bubbles with white wine, bay leaf, apples and juniper berries. The corned beef is sheered ribbon-thin, brushed along a hot grill and layered a third-pound high on molasses-tinged marble rye. The swirls are agelessly pleasing and crunch under a butter knife.
I’m sitting at the counter with a cup of coffee in a nondescript porcelain cup and making squiggly lines of brown mustard over the sandwich. Swiss melts into the Russian dressing, which has crackles and pops of acid from mustard seeds. Order the potato salad instead of fries; it’s potato coins cooked down with bacon, wine and caraway seed. All together, with that homey sauerkraut, it feels like prep for a chilly winter, one of those serene ones when you can grab a hot, fresh Reuben and slip into hibernation.
Kuby's, 6601 Snider Plaza