Any chef with fancy equipment and a healthy dose of self-esteem can come up with a consciously bougiefied take on a classic, but the Reuben at the breakfast and lunch spot Stag's Lunchette in Uptown is a master class in what can happen when a good chef with access to good ingredients tweaks something that's already great and makes it even better — not out of pride or spite or hubris or the intention of reinventing the wheel, but with creativity and skill and just the right balance of respect and irreverence. The meat itself, always the star of the show, is damn near perfect here — a high-quality brisket that's cured for weeks, smoked for hours, and seasoned with a host of spices before being topped with house-made, caraway seed-studded sauerkraut and thin-sliced, perfectly melty Gruyère. But the real secret is the bread: Stag's owner Alexeis Filipello uses levain instead of rye, the logic being that the rye's flavor distracts from the rest of the sandwich, and that logic being 100-percent correct. The result: a Reuben that's got all the flavor — and, even more importantly — all the drippy-saucy deliciousness of the kind of sandwich your grandfather might've eaten forty years ago, but is, somehow, better. Leave the $38 meatloaf and egg yolks suspended in liquid nitrogen to other people; we'll just be over here eating this awesome Reuben.
© 2015 East Bay Express