Rein’s Deli: Oy Vey! They have gluten-free “rye” rolls and they taste like goodness (the best reason to pull off the highway in Connecticut)

Loaf of dark rye bread

Image via Wikipedia

My friend and I had to go to New Haven to present at a conference.  After watching the state police try to pull an 18-wheeler out of a ditch, our discussion turned to food.  As we pulled off the pike, into the dreaded state of Connecticut, I commented that my favorite thing about Connecticut was Rein’s Deli, located in Vernon, just 20 minutes from the wonderful sight of the “Welcome to Massachusetts” sign.  My friend agreed that Rein’s was the best thing about Connecticut and we decided we had to stop there for dinner on our way home, our nerves wouldn’t allow us to eat before the presentation.

Maybe I should explain why I dislike Connecticut.  My friend Chris would attribute my dislike to being a woman and therefore illogical, but I believe that most of my dislike stems from their dogged refusal to put up those signs that tell you what gas stations and restaurants are located at the next exit.  I can’t tell you all how many times I have almost peed myself / run out of gas in Connecticut only to pull off the highway and find myself looking for those damn golden arches I saw just off the highway a minute ago and realizing it was the next / last exit.

I would also like to register a complaint against the traffic near Hartford and Stamford.  For cities with little to nothing going on, they generate lots of traffic, but I really don’t want to spend too much time dissing Connecticut.  I admit, it has many redeeming qualities: the Mystic Seaport area is delightful and I have met a lot of great people from Connecticut.

After our presentation (it went well thank you, but the topic was so exceptionally boring, I cannot bear to go into detail), we made a beeline to Rein’s to celebrate.  As we were seated, I started to brace myself to give my food allergy spiel.  I had been to Rein’s about a year before and had a bit of trouble ordering.  The staff had been very kind and tried their best to accommodate me, but, a deli menu comprised mostly of sandwiches and matzoh soup does not leave a lot of options for a gluten allergy.

When you are seated in the back to the 1980’s dining area, someone immediately brings pickles to the table.  I have never really cared for pickles, but Rein’s is famous for them, so I tried them again, just for this posting, but the pickle saltiness and the cumin flavor did not appeal to me.  My friend just shook her head at me in amazement: these are widely acknowledged to be the best pickles around.  Since my mother and just about everyone else I know that has tried them agrees, I will just chalk my reticence up to my general dislike of pickles.

After ordering some cream sodas (oh, fountain cream soda, why are you not more widely available?!), I managed to stop the waitress just long enough to inform her of my allergy.  Before I could go any further, she asked if I wanted a gluten-free menu and ran off only to return moments later with a small menu.  It turns out that Rein’s now has a separate kitchen for gluten-free items.

I was delighted that they even had a menu and was even more delighted to find that Rein’s is now making / buying fresh-made gluten-free breads, including a gluten-free “rye” bread.  While Rein’s has a variety of gluten-free breads, they do not have much in the way of choices (i.e. cold cuts or sides).  However, it is nice to know that this deli caters to the food allergy crowd.

My friend and I had a hankering for sweet potato fries and were intrigued by the maple BBQ dipping sauce, so we asked if I could have those, even though they were not listed on the gluten-free menu.  The waitress went to the kitchen and moments later, a manager returned with a laminated page stating the ingredients contained in the sweet potato fries.  They contained no gluten and I am generally not sensitive enough to worry about things fried in the same fryer, so we went ahead and ordered them.

The fries were good, not amazing, they were the standard frozen sweet potato fry, nothing special, but tasty nonetheless.  However, they were served with a maple BBQ sauce, which was smoky and sweet and good enough to drink by the cupful.  If you are going to do fries at Rein’s I would suggest their standard thick-cut fries, personally, I like those a little better.  For the record, I did not get sick.

I also ordered a turkey sandwich with cheese on the “rye” bread.  My friend ordered a reuben.  My friend’s reuben looked delicious and she said it was amazing.

My turkey on “rye” was great.  The sandwich was piled high with thinly shaved meat, cheese and onions.  The “rye” was very convincing.  It was clearly caraway with maybe a touch of anise in place of my old friend rye, but the taste and texture were pretty spot on.  If I closed my eyes, it was just like the good old days: the days before gluten and I declared war on each other.  However, the sandwich was dry with no Russian dressing or other accoutrement.  I found myself wishing for a little mustard or something, but I couldn’t find the waitress to get some.

I wouldn’t go to Rein’s for the service.  While the service runs fairly quickly and the staff is pleasant, they also always appear harried, running from table to table, forgetting the water or ketchup you asked for twice.

After eating, we headed to the front to pay our tab and check out the takeaway section.  My friend picked up some of their gluten-y rye bread and I eyed the new freezer of gluten-free mac and cheese and breads.  They do sell their gluten-free “rye”, but at $6.99 for four rolls, it is a pricey treat.

g/f friendly: 5 out of 5

taste and quality of food: 3.5 out of 5

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