It is 11 a.m. on a Sunday, and Oddfellows is reverberating with the energy of a hustling, bustling restaurant, much as it always does on weekends. This Bishop Arts District restaurant is a well-worn brunch spot, having earned its reputation by way of expertly brewed lattes, a pleasant atmosphere and a highly accessible menu. (Think burgers, chicken and waffles, migas and the like.)
But the menu is not devoid of surprise. Tucked quietly between the hash and the quiche, the Reuben sandwich ($12) occupies a mere two lines.
What an interesting option. The Reuben, while a beloved American sandwich, is a stranger to most brunch services. As a flashy parade of croque-madames, croque-monsieurs and Kentucky hot browns make their gilded lily way into the stomachs of hungry brunchers, the Reuben is relegated to a far more practical meal. Lunch, for instance, is a socially acceptably time for a Reuben. Dinner is also a good time for a Reuben. Any meal is a good meal for a Reuben as long as that meal is not brunch.
But then Oddfellows’ Reuben sandwich appeared with its stinky sauerkraut — positively effervescing with Thousand Island dressing — and all of that changed.
A typical, diner-style Reuben seems to measure success not by a balance of flavor and texture but by the degree to which your mouth struggles to encapsulate the corned beef behemoth before it. By this model, a successful sandwich is one containing four inches of corned beef. The dressing, the ’kraut, the bread — all are secondary to consuming corned beef in bulk.
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Oddfellows’ Reuben flies in the face of this meat fest, choosing instead to pay attention to each element of the sandwich. There are thick slices of fresh marbled rye, grilled just as the Reuben’s hotly debated creator, Bernard Schimmel, did when he prepared this sandwich for the first time. The bread is key, for it helps maintain order while a thick slick of Thousand Island and sauerkraut do their best to undermine the integrity of the sandwich.
And where the bread provides stability, the ’kraut and thick, crunchy housemade pickles provide freshness and tang, helping to balance this otherwise very rich meal. A refreshingly restrained layer of salty corned beef and nutty, creamy Swiss cheese also help achieve this balance.
Diehard (From the Greek diehardosis, referring to the painful death following an unseemly consumption of fatty beef) fans of summiting the Machu Picchu of Reubens may look at Oddfellow's version with disdain. And that's fine. Let them cling to their meaty mountains — that just leaves more of the best Reuben in Dallas for the rest of us.
Oddfellows, 316 W. Seventh St.