The Ten Best Reuben Sandwiches in Denver

This excerpt is from an article originally published December 12, 2017, by Ken Holloway.

The Reuben sandwich is said to have been invented just over a hundred years ago, in either Omaha, Nebraska, or New York City (depending on whose story you believe). The hot sandwich is an imposing stack of corned beef (or, less frequently, pastrami), sauerkraut, Russian dressing, melted Swiss cheese and grilled rye bread. To be great, a Reuben must start with great ingredients and be well-composed, well-balanced in flavor and texture, and cooked expertly. Here in Denver, master sandwich crafters from all over the country — East Coast, West Coast, Midwest and even the heart of Texas — and from right here in Colorado are making exceptional Reubens in delis, sandwich shops, diners and taverns; some are pure classics, and others are inspired interpretations. Here are the ten best Reuben sandwiches in Denver.

Masterpiece Delicatessen

1575 Central Street
(303) 561-3354
Getting ready to celebrate ten years in business, Masterpiece Deli is the place to go for “fine dining between bread.” According to founder Justin Brunson (who knows a little about fine dining beyond the bread, too), there were always places around town where you could get a great sandwich, but there wasn’t a place where you could find many different great sandwiches under one roof — so he created Masterpiece Deli to be that place. The Reuben here is what you get when you combine the best ingredients, a great recipe, and masterful execution. The corned beef is sliced super-thin and nearly melts in your mouth. The rich flavor is juxtaposed with tangy sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. The whole thing is robed in Emmenthaler cheese and held together with perfectly grilled thick-cut rye from the Grateful Bread company. If a sandwich could be called a work of art, this is it. “Every sandwich on the menu is a 10,” Brunson claims. Based on the Reuben alone, we find it hard to disagree.

Eat Here: 100 Restaurants We Can't Live Without

This excerpt is from an article originally published November 8, 2017 by the Westword Staff

Denver’s culinary culture can be traced from Colorado’s frontier days, when wild game hunters put food on the table and herds of cattle passed through on the Goodnight-Loving Trail; through the oil boom that brought big money — and big appetites — to the state; and on into the current boom fueled by people from all over the United States coming here for sunshine, outdoor recreation (maybe a little indoor recreation, too), friendly neighbors and, yes, good food.

Thanks to Mexican settlers who were cooking here long before state boundaries were drawn, the flavors of the Southwest also permeate Colorado cuisine (you can thank their descendants for our unique Den-Mex green chile and wonton rellenos), and more recent immigrants brought their own regional Mexican styles and traditions. Italians, too, played a part in building Denver as we know it today, especially on the “Northside,” where red-sauce joints were once more common than fast-food outlets are now.

And while we’re far from the “sea-washed, sunset gates” of the East and West coasts, where new arrivals from other continents have typically landed, Denver has seen its own waves of newcomers yearning to breathe free, many of them refugees from Vietnam, Ethiopia, Syria and other points on the globe; they’ve all added their own seasoning to the city’s surprisingly diverse dining scene.

The result is a cornucopia of old-school steakhouses; divey neighborhood joints that serve big menus of Italian, Greek, Mexican and American fare (sometimes all in the same place); staid and storied destination dining rooms; and pockets of ethnic eateries that keep suburban strip malls vibrant with the aromas of unfamiliar spices. The city is also full of the fast-casual counters that Denver has spawned in larger numbers and with more success than any other town, as well as the head-spinning array of new and hip spots bringing in the national trends — and often creating trends of their own that have rippled out to the rest of the country. With so much going on — from Golden to Aurora, from Boulder to Parker, and from quiet neighborhood enclaves to booming, cleverly named new zones clogged with traffic and construction dust — there’s more than any single hungry person can sort through in a day to determine what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

And so we’re setting the table with Eat Here, our compilation of the 100 restaurants that we can’t live without, places that define Denver’s dining scene. Price and privilege weren’t considerations in coming up with our list; we’ve included some of the city’s cheapest eats alongside some of its poshest. We focused on homegrown restaurants, rather than chains that opened Denver outlets. What mattered most was good food, though an eatery’s historical significance and intangible appeal also factored in — because sometimes we simply love reminders of where we came from as well as where we’re going.

We’ve only included places that opened before this year and can provide a full-on meal (so ice cream parlors and sweet shops, for example, weren’t considered). We also held off on including watering holes; we’ll pour out our list of bars we can’t live without in Drink Here, coming in early 2018. But otherwise, we just went with our hearts and bellies, thinking about what we’d miss if it disappeared, wondering what Denver would be like if a certain restaurant had never existed and, above all, remembering what wakes us up in the middle of the night with undeniable cravings.

So read up and then eat up: Here are 100 restaurants for you to discover — or to return to again and again.

Masterpiece Delicatessen

Before chef Justin Brunson opened his own fine-dining restaurant, Old Major, he was learning the ropes at places like Zengo, Luca and Fruition. But he had an idea about sandwiches, and so began peddling deli-style offerings out of the Lancer Lounge just around the corner from Luca; that endeavor eventually led to him opening Masterpiece Delicatessen in LoHi with partner Steve Allee. The fine-dining magic still sparkles through the bread, in truffled egg salad, in a twelve-hour braised brisket with red-wine gastrique and Taleggio fondue, and in a breakfast sandwich loaded with wild mushrooms. Masterpiece Deli has evolved over the years, adding a liquor license, a little more space and a wider range of hot and cold options. But the basics that Brunson and Allee started with are still there, making lunch-goers happy for the past nine years.

1575 Central Street
(303) 561-3354

Old Major

Pork was trendy and bacon sizzled everywhere when chef Justin Brunson opened Old Major in the up-and-coming LoHi neighborhood in 2013. But Brunson went beyond bacon, instituting a cured-meats program that followed difficult and time-consuming old-world methods. And while meat still stars on the plates — especially the continuously evolving Nose to Tail entree — served in the rough-hewn dining room that reflects the chef’s personality, respect is also given to seasonal produce and foraged ingredients. Old Major is named for a famous swine from the American literary canon, but the menu transcends pork with enough variety to make the restaurant a Denver classic.

3316 Tejon Street
(720) 420-0622

Justin Brunson Scores Seariously Meaty Food Network Pilot

Originally published in October 13, 2017 by Mark Antonation.

The nation’s food lovers are taking more notice of what’s going on in Denver restaurants. Prime evidence: chef/restaurateur Justin Brunson — of Old Major, Masterpiece Deli and Culture Meat & Cheese fame — now has his own Food Network show. Like his restaurants, the show, called SEARious Meats, will focus on meat — lots of it, prepared by Brunson’s friends and colleagues in Denver and around the country.

The chef says he’s been thinking about jumping into television for a few years but was waiting for the right opportunity. “We were going back and forth for about five years,” Brunson says about his conversations with the Food Network. He wasn’t interested in doing one of the competitive-cooking shows, so instead told the network he’d sign on “if I had my own show and could talk about something I like and am passionate about.”

And now that show is a reality, at least for one episode. A pilot for SEARious Meats was shot in Denver, and if ratings are good for the premiere, producers will shoot more episodes. “This is totally different than anything I’ve ever done,” the chef adds. In fact, he had to hire an agent to handle the business side of getting the episode done and working out future arrangements.

Here’s the description of SEARious Meats from the Food Network’s website:

Renowned carnivore and chef, Justin Brunson, ditches his restaurants for the road and a mouthwatering mission. Join him city-by-city as he steps into the protein-rich kitchens of some SEARious meat savants, to taste and celebrate their savory creations.

“It’s not just about about me — it’s about people I know and like cooking some cool pieces of meat,” Brunson explains. During the shooting, he visited restaurants and shops around Denver to highlight what’s happening in the food scene here — from charcuterie to bacon, barbecue and steaks.

The pilot, titled “Cowtown to Chowtown,” debuts on the Cooking Channel at 8 p.m. Wednesday, October 18, and then will run on the Food Network on Friday, October 20, at 4:30 p.m.