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The Wretched Ruben [sic]

Okay, so last time I was talking about our trip to San Antonio and how I’d just ordered a Reuben sandwich at The Esquire, which is one of my very, very favorite restaurants in the world.

I had also mentioned omens. As in a whole passel of them. As in, oh, phooey, pshaw, and darn.

Or words to that effect.

Martha on the River Walk, though, not from our most recent visit. This is from 2015 or there’s about. But I liked the picture of her, and you can get a feel from it for the River Walk Downtown.

Anyway, I’d ordered the Reuben and I was really, Really, REALLY looking forward to it. I mean, nothing like a Reuben, right?

Well, actually, if I had bothered to look up Reuben sandwiches (as I did later), I would have learned that there is a lot that’s “like” a Reuben but isn’t quite. I had always assumed that a Reuben was always a corned beef sandwich on rye bread (black rye, if possible), with a good strong dose of tangy sauerkraut, topped with Swiss cheese, and finished off with Russian Dressing or Thousand Island. And it is served hot.

Except...that’s not necessarily so. There’s a hundred different Reuben variants out there. There’s the “Montreal Reuben,” which has Montreal-style smoked beef rather than corned beef. There’s the Walleye and Grouper Ruebens, which have fish rather than beef. There’s the Rachel, which has pastrami or turkey rather than beef. There’s the Dinty Moore, which has coleslaw rather than sauerkraut. And, well, on and on like that.

This photo is of one of the Esquire’s lovely Old Fashioneds. As I say, it was here that I decided the Old Fashioned was my favorite drink.

And if I’d had brains enough to read the menu before I ordered off it, I would have noticed that the Esquire Ruben (note the lack of the second “e”) was, indeed, one of these variants. (Or, at least, I’m going to assume that, and that it wasn’t just poor preparation on their part.) Specifically, it had brisket rather than corned beef, and the “Swiss cheese” was Gruyere, which is, indeed, a Swiss cheese, but it has (to me) a distinctly different taste from what I think of as a run of the mill Swiss.

But the real difference was in the preparation. The bread was “grilled” but it was cool, and the meat and the cheese were actually cold. There was Russian dressing, but it was thinly spread, while the sauerkraut was so mild as to be almost diced cabbage. I’m guessing, by the way, that this was not an accident. Texans love their brisket, and I suspect that things like strong sauerkraut and strong dressing, which might overshadow the meat, are not welcome.

Now, let me make this clear. The Esquire Ruben is doubtlessly a fine sandwich. At some other time, when I had not been mentally salivating over the image of my corned beef and sauerkraut, I would have enjoyed it enormously.

But as it was...

Let’s just say that when that *thing*...with light brown “rye,” cold cheese, and flavorless cabbage...showed up on my plate...


It is not true that I assumed a tragic look, and that my lower lip began to tremble, while a single quiet tear formed at the corner of my left eye.


But I thought about it.


Still, in the greater scheme of things, my not-quite-the-Rueben-I-was-expecting experience was pretty small potatoes. I’m not facing real hunger, no one is shooting at me, Martha is no longer in a wheel, honestly, I have absolutely no business kvetching.


You gotta confess.

It’s fun.


Besides, there is a much bigger problem yet to come.

And it will involve a concert, a theater, and a set of loud speakers...

Speakers...that could curdle an egg at 200 meters.

More to come.


Finally, this is the breaded cutlet/chicken fried steak that *used* to be on the Esquire’s menu. It isn’t there any more, just as Fish & Chips doesn’t seem to be offered. That’s sad, because they were really, really good.

Note to Esquire folk: you aren’t abandoning food are you? I mean, you’re not just moving to drinks and pub fare? I could understand why you were doing it if you were. But, gosh! It would be a serious disappointment. I had some really wonderful dinners and lunches there over the years.

Copyright©2022 Michael Jay Tucker


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