1999-08-18 / Restaurant of the Week

The Original Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen


Of The Week

By Teresa Barile

No one does real kosher deli like Original Ben’s. I’m talking pastrami and corned beef cured with secret recipes that came to this country at the turn of the century with the immigrants who brought them here. The Original Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen and Restaurant on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park has kept the art of deli alive and consistently delicious for 52 years. Not affiliated with other delis who use the same name, this is the real McCoy. Since it was opened in 1947 by Ben Parker, very little has changed to this day, which is precisely the secret to Ben’s success, according to son Jay Parker, who has taken over the family business. And believe me, you wouldn’t want anything to change.

Original Ben’s was a top news story in July when the National Basketball Association playoffs took a turn for the worse. When the New York Knicks lost to the San Antonio Spurs, Governor George Pataki had to make good on a bet he made with Texas Governor George Bush. A phone call was made and the next thing you know, Parker was flying to Austin on a Southwest Airlines Jet (known at the time as the "Pastrami Express") loaded with an arsenal of New York deli. Chopped liver in the shape of the Empire State Building and a pastrami platter in the shape of New York state were accompanied by fresh baked rolls shaped like basketballs. This New York boy showed those Texans a thing or two about corned beef, I’d say. A feast at the Texas Capitol building in Austin was had by all.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, so to speak, you can walk into the narrow storefront and find several highly skilled deli men working frenetically behind the counter, carving up the biggest, tastiest corned beef and pastrami sandwiches you’ll ever sink your teeth into. The Original Ben’s has been curing its own corned beef and pastrami for years, using the best cuts of meat and a secret combination of spices to render the absolute leanest, most tender meat that melts in your mouth. It’s so good that I actually forgot to put mustard on it, and it’s easy to see why people come from miles around for a taste of Original Ben’s Best. A special oven cooks their roast beef lean and juicy and rare all the way through. Don’t forget the brisket, piled high upon fresh baked rye bread with gobs of grainy mustard, served with cole slaw and kosher dill pickles on the side. Dr. Brown’s cream soda is the perfect beverage for this meal.

According to the congenial Parker, it’s all about freshness and consistency. Starting in the early morning, the cooks begin the process of preparing soups, sauces and meats from scratch. One taste of the matzoh ball soup, never greasy or salty, will cure whatever ails you. The mushroom barley soup is creamy and satisfying as well.

Besides the fabulous overstuffed sandwiches, Original Ben’s Best makes such traditional entrees as boiled chicken in a pot, chock full of chicken, noodles, matzoh balls and kreplach, a kind of dumpling. My personal favorite is their stuffed cabbage rolls, stuffed with rice and beef in a tangy sauce. Apparently this Eastern European meal is also a favorite of Governor Pataki, who eats at Original Ben’s every time he visits Queens and loves the oven roasted potatoes that come with it, too. Hungarian goulash is served on a bed of noodles with carrots and peas.

Be sure and order some side dishes with your dinner. The kasha varnishkes, egg bow noodles tossed with kasha, are delicious. So is the mushroom and egg barley. Their potato pancakes (latkes) and apple sauce could make an entire meal, and the thick-cut french fries are just wonderful. Save room for their homemade apple streudel and noodle pudding for dessert.

Original Ben’s Best is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, with free delivery available on take out orders. Don’t cook in this heat. Call or fax an order into Ben’s. The Original Ben’s Best also does a brisk catering business, whether a sandwich platter for a business luncheon or dinner for 30 people on Thanksgiving. Menus are customized to individual needs and everything is prepared fresh that day. Stop in or call for their special catering menu that includes roast turkey or cold cut platters, smoked fish platters, hot entrees or hero sandwiches sold by the foot and filled with all favorite meats.

Visit Original Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen and Restaurant any day, for lunch, dinner or to snack on a knish or hot dog. They’re open from 9 a.m. till 9:45 p.m. Fax in lunch orders in the morning for afternoon delivery. Celebrate Original Ben’s Best 53rd anniversary as a New York tradition.

The Original Ben’s Best

96-40 Queens Blvd.

Rego Park


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