I was born and lived until I was 11 in an idyllic suburb north of Chicago called Glencoe. My friends and I could ride our bikes to the little town center and play in the park or get fries and shakes at Big Al’s.

Glencoe had a pretty substantial Jewish population that had migrated there from the city (my great grandparents immigrated to Chicago from Europe around 1900), so we had not one but two competing traditional New York-style delis within a block of each other. On the weekends it was a treat to go with our family to Harry’s or Ricky’s for corned beef or pastrami sandwiches or greasy Reubens for lunch.

Corned beef is a salt-cured beef and it’s not the leanest cut, so it’s not the healthiest of indulgences, but taking a bite of a corned beef sandwich or a hot Reuben melt transports me happily back to the slick red booths and bustling counters at the downtown delis of my childhood.

My favorite deli sandwich is also a quick and satisfying treat for dinner.  If you like a sweeter taste, you can substitute coleslaw for the sauerkraut. By the way, rye bread, frequently used to make deli sandwiches, can be a good source of fiber, and rye has a number of other health and nutritional benefits.  Next time you’re shopping for bread, consider rye as an alternative to the old standby of wheat, but check the label to be sure that the bread has at least 2 grams of fiber per slice.

Need more easy hot sandwich ideas?  Try the Hot Meatball SubsPhiladelphia Cheese Steaks,  and English Muffin Pizza Joes.

What is your favorite thing to order in a traditional deli?

Recipe: Hot Reuben Melts

  • Prep Time: 10 min(s)
  • Cook Time: 10 min(s)
  • Total Time: 20 min(s)
  • Servings: 4

Recreating a favorite childhood deli classic, hot Reuben sandwiches.


  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. fat free or reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 8 slices rye or pumpernickel bread
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 lb. sliced corned beef (or use sliced pastrami, roast beef, turkey, ham or vegetarian deli slices)
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1 cup sauerkraut or coleslaw


  1. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the ketchup and mayonnaise to make Russian dressing.
  2. On one side of each piece of bread, spread a thin layer of butter. On the non-buttered side of 4 slices of the bread, layer about 6 slices of corned beef, 1 slice of cheese, 1 large spoonful of sauerkraut or coleslaw, and about 1 Tbsp. of the dressing. Press the top half of each sandwich on so the buttered sides of both pieces of bread are on the outside. (If you have picky eaters, serve the sauerkraut or coleslaw on the side of their sandwiches.)
  3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook the sandwiches on both sides, pressing them down with a spatula, until the outsides are nicely browned, 3 - 5 minutes per side. Remove them from the pan and slice the sandwiches on the diagonal to serve.

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