Reubens That Don't Kill You Make You Stronger

A Sandwich a Day

A new sandwich every day.

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

I can't decide if the cooks at Odessa, one of our favorite dive-diners in the East Village, are sadists or just really in love with life. Because a Reuben like this one needs some kind of explanation for its size and splendor and general "screw your cardiologist" work ethic.

What you're looking at is a huge slab of rye covered in fold upon fold of thinly sliced pastrami, a heap of sauerkraut, an especially sweet Russian dressing, and enough melted Swiss to obscure it all in a glistening sheen of whiteness. Then, next to this fatty tower of triumph, is another whole sandwich, just as massive. Odessa serves this sandwich open face—a common thing for tuna melts, but less so for Reubens. The result is an incredible deal for $9, $12 if you opt for the "deluxe" version of fries, which you most assuredly will not need.

As for the details: the rye is of higher quality than most delis and diners, insofar as it tastes more like sliced bread than foam, though that may just be the soaked-in pastrami fat talking. As for the pastrami, it's really more of a lightly peppered corned beef—no smoky or spicy flavors to speak of. The Russian dressing is quite sweet, but it's kept in check by the sauerkraut and cheese flood on the plate. Whether the short order cooks at Odessa were trying to kill me or make me stronger, they knew what they were doing.

I'd call this a great deal and a solid sandwich, in that order, but it deserves to be a centerpiece of any meal of excess on your next visit.