We take a lot of pictures of food and most of the time those pictures are used in blog posts and reviews. Occasionally, however, those pictures never see the light of day. I have a folder on my desktop of food pictures that have never made it online, some date back to 2011. Over the course of the last six months, I’ve eaten at Reuben’s NY Deli four times and have taken a ton of pictures but kept pushing back my review.
I think this blog post has been so delayed because I was never sure what I wanted to say about Reuben’s. I’m not an expert on Jewish Deli food or even true deli food in general. Buffalo’s deli scene is lacking, to say the least. My meals at Reubens have not been terrible but I never was impressed with any of the food I tried. These type of meals are the most difficult to write about, ones that aren’t great but aren’t bad either.
The restaurant is laid out like a New York style deli, there’s a long counter and several tables along the wall. The restaurant is long and narrow and at busy points of the day (lunch), it can get very crowded. Luckily, every time I’ve visited I’ve always been able to grab a seat the bar. The service on each visit has been chaotic. I hoped after six months of service the kinks would have been ironed out. But even on our last visit a couple weeks ago, there was constantly some type of confusion and employees were always wondering what food went where.
The prices at Reuben’s are fair and their menu has Jewish Deli specialties that you can’t really find anywhere else other than Nosh Cafe. In the four visits I made to the restaurant, I tried something new each time. Each meal started with some complimentary coleslaw and pickles, which actually were the only consistently good part of every visit. The pickles were sour and crispy and the coleslaw was lightly dressed in mayo and had a really nice sweet kick.
On my first visit, my Dad ordered the Turkey Pastrami on challah bread. He wasn’t exactly sure what he was ordering but he thought the light and fluffy challah bread was interesting (in a good way) and the large amount of turkey pastrami was salty but satisfying for lunch. My brisket on rye was a little disappointing. The brisket was cut thick, over cooked and really tough. Thus, my quest for a good brisket experience in Western New York continues. We also ordered a plate of fries that were crispy but breaded and clearly not freshly made. I also ordered a Dr. Brown soda because they are delicious and I was happy to see Reuben’s had several different flavors.
On a follow up visit I ordered the Corned Beef and Pastrami, which was sliced thin and topped with coleslaw. The sweeter coleslaw and the tender, salty cured meats were a nice compliment to each other. This was the best dish that I tried on any of my visits. The bread fell apart as I tried to eat the sandwich, but that’s my only complaint.
On our latest visit my Dad ordered the Roast Beef on a deli roll, another sandwich that was piled high with meat. The beef was tender but the actual meat itself didn’t have a lot of flavor. I ordered the Nova Platter with comes with a bagel (imported from Long Island), sliced salmon, cream cheese, tomatoes and onion. The bagel was just OK (maybe the cross state travel negatively effected it) and the sliced salmon was disappointing and tasted like similar pre-packaged versions that we’ve had at Manhattan Bagel or Bagel Jay’s. The texture wasn’t there and the flavor of the salmon was bland. The cream cheese, tomato and onion helped provide a punch but it still wasn’t what I was hoping for.
As you can see, not every meal was bad. Occasionally, I enjoyed a specific dish or component of a dish. But most of the time the food was average or sub-par. I’m not sure if I’m missing something because every time I’ve visited the restaurant it has been packed. The restaurant is clearly appealing to UB Students who are missing a taste of home or an older crowd who are looking for Jewish staples. If you’re really in the mood for a specific dish from your favorite Jewish deli, then I guess this is one of your only options at the moment. But if you are looking for a good sandwich, I suggest you go elsewhere.