One of America’s oldest forms of street food is the humble sandwich – a simple menu item that, over time, has become the foundational building block of New York City’s iconic deli scene. Across generations, New York’s Jewish, German, Italian and Latino communities have added their own influences to the bubbling melting pot, creating the current iteration of deli-style dining known far and wide. Reuben’s Deli & Bar is a brand-new bar and eatery that is distilling the recipes and flavours of New York delis into an offering loaded with house-cured pastrami, slow-braised brisket, authentic mustard and plenty of local craft beer to boot.
The inspiration behind Reuben’s Deli & Bar is rooted in memories. For co-owners Peggy and Manny Rosenberg, the vision for their newly opened Paddington haunt spawns from their shared love of New York-style street food – namely the old-school delis and kosher restaurants that are as iconic as the city’s vast monuments. These very cafeterias, each of which imbued with influences from New York’s distinct communities and cultures, shaped Peggy and Manny’s tastes and remain just as beloved as they were in their youth. Although the American ex-pats have operated several restaurant concepts over the years, the idea behind Reuben’s has been on their minds for close to 19 years. The idea – to bring a piece of American deli cuisine to Brisbane by showcasing old-world recipes, curing and smoking techniques, and various flavour profiles – blended seamlessly with Peggy and Manny’s knack for hospitable service, creating as authentic a New York-inspired culinary experience as you’re likely to find in Brisbane.
Reuben’s Deli & Bar sits snugly on Given Terrace, in a breezy and bright nook once home to Little Social. The space proved ideal for Peggy and Manny’s purposes, with spacious indoor and outdoor seating areas and a sizeable bar allowing the duo to translate and complement the deli experience with a casual bar and bistro atmosphere. Some cosmetic adjustments were made to the space, include a retiled Art Deco bar front that harkens to a recognisable New York aesthetic, and new brickwork behind the bar – evoking a lived-in feel, much like the ageless delicatessens that remain a crucial thread in New York’s culinary tapestry. Speaking of which, Manny has adorned the walls with numerous photographs of New York scenery – foregrounding Reuben’s inspirations and also adding a slice-of-life insight to Big Apple living.
The food and drink
When it came to the menu, Peggy and Manny don’t believe ‘close enough’ is good enough. Family recipes (and insight gleaned from numerous research trips to famed spots like Katz’s Delicatessen) comprised 70-percent of the menu’s direction, with the remaining percentage filled in by Reuben’s skilled chefs. Although limited in kitchen space, much of Reuben’s product is made in house – here the raw brisket undergoes a 12-day preparation process, from curing and desalinating to the dry rub and smoking. To get closer to the authenticity mark, a local baker makes Reuben’s deli-style rye bread with caraway seeds and bagels with ‘the lot’, while American mayonnaise and mustard have been sourced for the right kind of kick. Reuben’s offering starts with an inventive array of breakfast bites, such as roasted potato hash ‘home fries’ tossed with house-cured and smoked pastrami, huevos rancheros with smoked pork, and house-made nutty granola with Greek-yogurt parfait. Lunch sees Reuben’s full range of hoagies, subs, burgers and classic deli sandwiches come into play (complete with zesty dill pickles and house-made potato crisps on the side). The sandwich selection includes house-cured and smoked pastramiserved on fresh rye with brown mustard, chopped chicken-liver pate mixed with grilled onions and boiled egg served chilled on rye toast, and the signature Reuben sandwich – boasting pastrami layered with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing, which is grilled between slices of deli rye. The Italian hoagie layered with Borgo mortadella, mild and hot salamis, oven-baked ham and provolone cheese is another tempting option, as is Reuben’s meatball hero, chicken parmesan sub and juicy cheeseburger. Large plates round out the menu, offering the likes of lamb shank served on Thanksgiving mash, classic Louisiana-style jambalaya, fettucine and meatballs and cobb salads available to share. Soon the menu will expand to serve matzah-ball soup and clam chowder. As for the bar, Peggy and Manny have curated a selection of local craft beers that complements the fare, alongside a balanced and approachable wine list and more than a dozen cocktails.
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