While the exact origin of the Reuben sandwich is uncertain, different accounts put its genesis at somewhere between 1914 and 1926. Now that’s a sandwich with staying power. This American deli classic made its way onto menus and into the vocabulary of Australia’s sandwich-eating folk three or four years ago as far as I can tell, and it’s no surprise now to see it pop up on the card or blackboard of any cafe that you might find yourself in. So I wasn’t surprised when I saw one recently on the menu of re-PUBLIC cafe and eating depot, in Castlemaine, Central Victoria.

Exactly how a sandwich with corned beef as its key ingredient has found such popularity in Australia in the last few years confounds me. Maybe it’s the subject of some genius marketing. I mean, hands up, who here (apart from my parents) has eaten corned beef anytime between 1979 and now? No one. And why is it called ‘corned beef’ anyway? There’s no corn involved. Maybe because ‘boiled beef’ sounds much less appealing. More marketing.

re-PUBLIC is a versatile little place housed in Castlemaine’s old fire station, and spans a casual cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, and a restaurant for slightly more serious dining. They’re open every day and churn out what seems to be the vast majority of the coffee consumed in Castlemaine. The menu has a strong contingent of breakfast stuffs, like pancakes with stewed rhubarb or fresh honeycomb, house baked cannellini beans with tomato sugo and feta, and all the eggy things you can think of. They also do breakfast until 3pm, which is a winner in my book. Lunch is more about sandwiches, wraps and fritters, and they whip up a great salt and pepper squid.

So back to the Reuben. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last little while and haven’t had one for yourself, a Reuben is fashioned from corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, served on toasted rye bread. Not from Russia, this very American dressing is concocted from mayonnaise, ketchup, and other optional ingredients like horseradish and pimentos to spice it up a bit. Like a spicier version of Marie Rose sauce.

The lovely peeps at re-PUBLIC gave me mine on toasted gf bread, and it came with a delightfully crunchy side salad. They were generous with the corned beef which had been boiled/picked/corned to juicy perfection, and was expertly balanced with the dressing and melty cheese. It was very good!

Where have you had a good Reuben?