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  • Writer's pictureEric Elkins

Ode: The Root Vegetable Reuben at Gladys

No, wait.

Stick with me on this.

I wouldn’t believe me, either.

As a full-on carnivore who lives for big beefy bites, I maintain a healthy skepticism toward plant-based alternatives that claim they’re substitutes for their meat-forward equivalents.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m on a personal plan of constant improvement, depending less and less on meat as a primary protein source — both for health reasons and because I live on planet Earth and understand the deleterious effects of mass-market animal production on the environment. I love me some tasty veggies. I’m good with the legumes. I’ll eat a tempeh scramble. Fish are friends AND food.

I’ve had my share of spectacular vegetarian meals that left me sated and smiling. But none of them tried to be something they weren’t. They were delicious in their own right, proud to be their own thing.

So, with my bona fides and predilections clearly stated, when I say that the vegetarian reuben at Gladys in Edgewater Public Market satisfies like its bovine-based namesake, I mean it. If the magical celery root that overflows the marble rye like thinly sliced pastrami were just a bit more toothsome, you might not even know you were eating a vegan sandwich.

Vegetarians who don’t like meat probably wouldn’t enjoy this item — it’s too close to a deli-stacked sandwich in all its unctuous umami flavor.

The Gladys reuben looks like the kind of thing you’d order at Zaidy’s or the Bagel Deli, with the toasted rye swirled and lightly browned, horseradish crème fraiche leaking out the sides. You’ll appreciate the gentle crunch of pickled sauerkraut. And though you’ll miss the pull and protest of sliced deli meat as your teeth tear at the sandwich, the immediate pastraminess of the celery root will likely stop your brain from thinking too hard about the texture.

“Oh shit,” you’ll say to anyone nearby. “That’s the fucking thing!”

Is the Root Vegetable Rueben the answer to a meat-free lifestyle? Maybe more of a gateway drug. It hints at real possibilities for the inveterate carnivores among us who know that life on our planet will depend on big habitual changes. It’s a step along the way toward satisfying our inner caveman. It’s fucking delicious, and I think about it a lot.

But I’m still holding out for low-impact, guilt-free, lab-grown meat in the near future.

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