2009-02-04 / Restaurant of the Week

ORIGINAL BEN'S BEST

W ith Valentine's Day coming soon, what could be more romantic than to take your special someone to the HEART of the borough for a juicy pastrami or corned beef

sandwich, pickles, cole slaw and a cream

soda? And speaking of heart, no one has a bigger one than owner Jay Parker. Parker's Wall of Fame inside this landmark deli on Queens Blvd. in Rego Park features politicians, athletes, television personalities, actors and actresses. A photo of Parker with Pope Benedict at the Vatican came about due to their involvement with an organization called "Pave the Way Foundation". For an impressive clip about this benevolent foundation, visit www.ptwf.org.

This is the Original Ben's Best, in continuous operation for 62 years and still going strong. Enough with the schmoozing! I'm here to talk about deli…classic deli made from centuries-old recipes, brought from the old world by Ben Parker in 1947. Lean, tender corned beef cured by hand in house then sliced and piled high onto rye bread for a slice of heaven New Yawk style. Original Ben's pastrami is impossibly lean and seasoned to perfection. Brisket of beef is slow cooked until the meat is so tender, it melts in your mouth. Beef tongue on rye with mustard doesn't get better than this. For the rarest, most succulent roast beef, this is your place. The flavor of their oven roasted whole turkey cannot be duplicated anywhere else. Best of all, these outrageously delicious cuts of meat can be made into hefty sandwiches, served on platters, or sliced by the pound to take home. Heros by the foot can be made and delivered for your next party too. In fact, they specialize in catering to your home, office or temple occasions. Orders fly out the door and even fly Express Mail overnight to expatriate New Yorkers who just can't live without the best deli.

I started with a steaming bowl of matzo ball soup, packed with flavor and tender noodles, and a light, tender matzo ball. This soup is legendary and is neither fatty nor salty, just delicious and will truly cure what ails you. I devoured the crunchy cole slaw and pickles while a sampler plate of meats was prepared. Thin slices of corned beef, pastrami, brisket, tongue, roast beef and turkey provided a taste of the very best Ben's has been making for decades. Order a celebrity sandwich such as the "Gary Ackerman special", an openfaced corned beef sandwich with sliced turkey breast, Bermuda onion and Russian dressing. The New York Newsday special combines salami, tongue, corned beef and cole slaw on fresh rye bread.

The hot entrées at Original Ben's convey the flavors of another century. One of my favorite dishes is stuffed cabbage, filled with delicately seasoned meat in a tangy tomato sauce with sweet raisins, imparting unique flavor that can come from a centuries-old recipe. The same is true of the Hungarian goulash. Tender beef is slow-cooked for hours with carrots and seasonings in a hearty sauce. This is a dish that sticks to your ribs and your memory. Old fashioned boiled beef flanken in the pot is another traditional dish, served with chicken soup, carrots, matzo ball and kreplach.

The Great Early Bird Dinner is a fine way to enjoy some of the house favorites served as a complete and economical meal. Served Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) until 6pm, the complete dinner includes a cup of chicken noodle or mushroom barley soup, your choice of entrée, one side dish, dessert and a beverage. Choose among stuffed cabbage, braised brisket of beef or Hungarian goulash, side dishes such as kasha varnishkes or vegetables, and a slice of their fabulous apple strudel all for just $16.95.

At lunchtime or anytime, pop in for a juicy Kosher hot dog, made with the finest ingredients, or handmade potato knishes, both square and round, some made with spinach or kasha. Side dishes such as the pearl barley and mushrooms, kasha varnishkes with bow tie pasta and noodle kugel bring back memories of my youth in Brooklyn. Take home a whole roasted Empire chicken with side dishes for your next family meal. For your office or home luncheon, order a cold salad platter with classic chicken liver, tuna salad, chicken salad, potato salad and more.

Let the experts at Original Ben's cater your next party or holiday meal. Visit their Web site for menus and more details on all the delicious, classic deli meats and entrées you'd expect from this famous eatery, which is open 7 days a week. For subway riders, take the R or V to 63rd Drive and Original Ben's is right there. Surprise your Valentine and celebrate life with the deli best!

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