Andrew Kelley drapes slices of white cheese over soft submarine rolls. He’s behind the counter, as usual, constructing sandwiches alongside co-owner (and his wife) Edi Kelley. After loading the pillowy bread with rounds of cheese, he looks up.
“Do you want a Reuben? I could make you a Reuben,” he says. His exuberance woos me away from the order I walked in for: a saucy meatball sub showered with oregano and hot peppers. “People are saying it’s the best they’ve ever had,” Kelley says of his new Reuben.
Early in 2017, the New York Sub pulled a Hollywood move: It rebooted a beloved operation in the same home. New York Sub is not a sequel; it’s a loving reboot of the old sandwich joint across from Southern Methodist University, rebuilt with heart and all the care that an easygoing Chicagoan could muster.
Shuffle in on a weekday, and you’re likely to find Kelley, head down, washing sandwiches in his housemade olive oil and wine vinegar sauce. A hearty shake of oregano will strum your heartstrings for coastal street food.
The Reuben is nothing short of eye-opening. Ribbons of pastrami, brined then smoked, are tender as cotton candy. Kelley layers the bread first with slices of mild provolone, sourced from a family farm in Wisconsin. Then come the slightly smoky pastrami, shaved thin and piled high; sauerkraut that Kelley whips up in house; triangular, thick-cut pickles; and a heavy zig-zag of Russian dressing. The sandwich engineering is as sound as a building: The provolone acts like support beams for the house of ingredients above it, sturdy but melting as it sits against the hot, toasty bread.
The tang of the dressing pops at you like static electricity. Kelley douses the sauce with his home-brew pickle brine, more chopped pickles, chopped onions and smoked paprika. It zaps. I think it left a perfect joker smile smeared on my face after one mammoth bite. I wolfed one half of the sandwich, fork-tender pastrami melting into provolone, before Ray Charles finished singing “Hit the Road, Jack” on the radio.
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“It’s a little bit different than your traditional Reuben,” Kelley says. For less than nine bucks, you can wolf a half-sized sub that will leave your pupils dilated.
I don’t want to meet the New York-style sandwich joint that doesn’t douse cold cuts in oil-vinegar and oregano, or that forgets to pay homage to the Reuben. Classic presentation is good; smart execution is better.
“How do you have a New York Sub shop without a Reuben?” Kelley says, and he’s so right.
New York Sub, 3411 Asbury St.