'Home of the Best Reuben' keeps it fresh

Published on: 6/7/2011

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of family-owned businesses in Waukesha. If you know of a family business you'd like to see featured email mjozwik@jcpgroup.com.

There is a little deli in downtown Waukesha known for serving up great food and great service, but its claim to fame is being "Home of the Best Ruben." Behind the scenes is a family who take pride in serving up fresh, homemade dishes and treating their customers like part of the family.

At Rochester Deli six of the 20 employees are related to each other. Owners Laura and Dan Strackbein of Vernon have included several members of their family in running the deli. Their daughter Alicia, 22, is the lead cake decorator, son Joe, 19, is a line cook, and son Rob, 17, is a dish washer at the deli. Dan's brother Conrad is the sous-chef. Laura is in charge of marketing, finances and managing and training the house staff. Alicia's boyfriend Jason Price also works at the deli.

One wall of the deli is adorned with many family photos spanning a range of eras.

"I think it's awesome. I really enjoy it," Dan said of working with his family.

Laura said that working at the deli is a great way for her kids to learn customer service, menu development and how to run a business.

The only downside to working with family is the difficulty in taking family vacations because most of the staff would be gone, the family agreed.

Inspired by NY delis

Dan Strackbein has been in the food business for most of his adult life. After spending 12 years as the executive chef and food and beverage director at the Milwaukee Athletic Club in downtown Milwaukee, Strackbein decided it was time for something new.

"We wanted to get our own business going," he said of him and his wife Laura. Taking inspiration from New York City delis, and Benji's Deli and Jake's on North Avenue, the Strackbein's opened Rochester Deli in 2004.

"I just liked the deli setup," Dan said.

The Strackbein's designed their menu to include seasonal, homemade items fresh to order. Since customers have many restaurants to choose from, the Strackbeins made sure to include items on their menu not seen anywhere else in Waukesha.

Out of this desire to be unique, the deli chose the Reuben to be its signature sandwich.

"No one else does it," Dan said. He added that the deli's Reuben, corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, are all unique and made with top quality meats and other ingredients.

The deli makes its own 1,000 island dressing and horseradish sauce to add a personal taste to the sandwiches.

Rochester Deli takes special care to make sure every item they sell is made with top quality ingredients to ensure the highest quality taste.

"The biggest complement we get is when someone orders (something simple like a) BLT and says it's the best BLT they've ever had," Dan said.

Rochester Deli is named after Rochester Street in Mukwonago, where the Strackbein's originally thought of building their deli. They said the name also had a New York flair which corresponds with the feel of the deli.

Signature dishes

Rochester Deli offers a wide range of menu items, including salads such as their signature raspberry chicken salad, hot and cold sandwiches, wraps and Dan's hand carved from the brisket sandwiches. Soups are made in house and vary daily.

"It keeps things fresh and alive," Laura said of the changing soup menu.

The deli has Friday fish fries featuring a sautéed walleye pike with sundried tomato beurre blanc, fried or baked cod, homemade potato pancakes, and homemade apple sauce, tartar sauce, and vinegar style coleslaw.

A variety of baked goods are made fresh at the deli using old-time recipes, including European tortes, pies, cookies and cupcakes. Wedding cakes are made and decorated at the deli as well.

"We don't just do a sheet cake," Dan said.

A catering service is also offered at Rochester Deli which includes deli sandwich box lunches, platter combinations, and large salad bowls.

Despite food and supplies getting more expensive, the deli has tried to maintain reasonable prices.

Rochester Deli hopes to open another location in the next couple of years.

For more information, menus, or to order, visit Rochester Deli's website.


Who: Rochester Deli

Where: 143 W. Broadway

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday

Claim to fame: Reuben sandwich

Information: (262) 522-9611