I have been called a sandwich snob. That accusation is false. However, I do believe in something called sandwich theory. This is my quest to find the greatest sandwiches in Madison.
I was already familiar with Stalzy’s Deli & Bakery on Atwood, but after spending the better part of the last decade out of state, it was time to revisit. Stalzy’s claims to fame are the Reubens, corned beef and pastrami, so I figured one of those was the place to start on the inaugural stop of my quest (and at the behest of my brother and sister, who are big Stalzy fans). I ordered the classic corned beef Reuben on rye.
The bread is baked fresh in-house every day, and my rye was grilled to perfection without being overly greasy. Would I have said no to a little thicker slice or larger sized loaf? No. But in terms of bread being the foundation of a sandwich, this house was built on solid footing. It was fresh and porous, so it pulled in the Swiss cheese and oil as it grilled.
I don’t think I’ve had better corned beef. The deli meats are prepared in-house, which provided superior corned-beefiness. And the corned beef had the right amount of fat marbling, allowing the sandwich, for the most part, to break into easy bites. The amount of sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing was just enough to balance out the corned beef. In some ways, you almost couldn’t tell where the kraut, Swiss or dressing started or ended, but that blending wasn’t a bad thing. (My brother had the special that day, which was a smoked pork Rachel with creamy slaw instead of kraut. The smokiness of the pork paired really well with the slaw.)
I’m tough on sandwich architecture. I’m not against a sloppy sandwich, but a sandwich falling apart or the makings falling out of the middle does annoy me greatly. In this case, the makings didn’t quite make it to the edges, but I did get a little slippage. Some of that was from pulling out larger pieces of corned beef with a few bites, but by no means did the sandwich fall apart on me.
Is it a cheap Reuben at $9? Not exactly. It is just the sandwich (and dill pickle spear) and there are no sides included. But considering you’re paying $7-$8 for an assembly-line Reuben at chain places without fresh bread and corned beef, the cost is worth the quality. It’s not a huge sandwich, but it was made to order, came out hot and the service was good, despite it being a busy lunch hour.
Was it the best Reuben I’ve ever had? I can’t say that definitively yet, but it’s among the best-tasting and best-prepared. One of my rules of thumb for trying a new sandwich place is always start with the Reuben. It’s not hard to mess up, yet it’s not guaranteed a shop will do one well, either. But the execution was all there for Stalzy’s Reuben and I’m excited to head back to try the Rachel and Brooklyn Reuben.
Next stop, I think I’ll begin the quest to find the best Cubano in town.