I went to New York City this weekend. I would have blogged from there, but that would have let my readers know I was out of town, and they might have broken into my house.
A highlight of the trip was that I ate what might be the world’s most expensive Reuben. At Benash Delicatessen, 857 Seventh Avenue, the Reuben goes for $24.95. I knew it was expensive, but, after all, this was New York. Stuff costs more there. I knew it would be great, because in New York, the market, as in Milton Friedman’s market (and not your grocery store), rigorously sorts great from not-so-great. Anything lagging behind the proverbial pack is hunted down and killed by the rigorous economic principles relentlessly at work here. And, it came with French fries, unlike the corned beef and pastrami sandwiches.
I explained all this to my wife, and we decided to split a Reuben (more like 70/30). There was a $3 fee to do that, which definitely made this the most expensive Reuben in the world, or at least in my world.
While we waited, we talked. What would the sandwich be like? Would this be the Platonic Ideal of Reubens? (My wife is a philosophy professor.) We looked forward to the perfectly cooked corned beef, to sauerkraut imported from, I guess, Heaven, to perfect bread, to coleslaw at perfect crunchiness.
The sandwich came. We eagerly divided it 70/30 and started eating.
It sucked. Reuben, whoever he was, was probably turning in his grave, and vomiting. This sandwich wasn’t merely mediocre, a let-down. It was worse than that. It wasn’t rancid – it wasn’t bad in that sense. It was edible. But it wasn’t good. I didn’t bother finishing my portion, even though I was hungry.
The sandwich certainly wasn’t worth $24.95, or $27.95, to split (70/30). I told our waiter and thanked him and tipped him for his good service.
If the trip had been a video game, and if I had a do-over, I would honor what was my first thought on seeing the Reuben on the menu: For $24.95, a sandwich should jump off the plate and give you a one-hour massage. For an extra $3, it should give a couples massage.
In my do-over, I’ll order a regular corned beef sandwich or hot pastrami. The pastrami, I remember, costs $14.45 – considerably less than the Reuben, but still the most expensive pastrami I’ve ever seen … But it doesn’t come with fries.
Maybe the whole point was that I had $10 French fries?