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A Sandwich a Day: Smoked Beet Reuben at The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, Kansas City

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[Photograph: Jonathan Bender]

Meet the Smoked Beet Reuben ($10) out of The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange: the soul of a Jewish delicatessen, reincarnated in Kansas City. And it's vegetarian!

The ingredients sit between two lightly toasted, buttered slices of locally baked Farm to Market marble rye. The bread is just stiff enough to contain the inch and a half of veggies and keep that trickle of beet juice from ending up on your shirt. The thin, slightly sweet purplish-red layers are redolent of smoke—the beets are roasted whole, peeled and then sliced and smoked on hickory, like the corned beef tongue used for the restaurant's meat version. "Smoke is the definitive flavor of Kansas City," Rieger executive chef Howard Hanna says. "I wanted to show off the earthiness of the beets and there's something about smoke that makes it magic."

The sandwich is also available as a half-and-half or a combo (Hanna's favorite) with meats and beets. In either case, the rest of the reuben is more conventional, albeit with a few more unconventional ingredients: the kraut is made from fermented Brussels sprout leaves and the melty Gruyère is a nice step up from classic Swiss. Thousand Island dressing finishes the sandwich off with a welcome creamy check to the sweetness of the beets and the salty punch of the kraut.

Order a house made ginger beer from the scratch bar, which benefits from a staff that often pulls shifts in Manifesto, the speakeasy in the basement. The spicy tonic will never be mistaken for Dr. Brown's; then again, this isn't your traditional Jewish deli.

About the Author: Jonathan Bender is an author and the founder of The Recommended Daily, an online food publication in Kansas City. You can also find him on Twitter.

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