2018-01-03 / Restaurant of the Week

THE ORIGINAL BEN’S BEST

The expression “Everything old is new again” could not be truer. Today’s food “trends” emphasize “artisanal, handcrafted, micro-brewed, and small batch.”

Well, The Original Ben’s Best Kosher Deli has been making food in the artisanal Kosher tradition for the past 72 years. Original Ben’s Best is the real deal and one of only 16 remaining, traditional Kosher delis where there were once 2,000 around the city. Come for a taste of the best, old world, hand crafted Kosher food, right outside the subway at 63rd Drive.

It all starts before dawn, when owner Jay Parker cures pastrami and corned beef using centuries old family recipes. The 21-day process includes spicing, pickling, curing, smoking, and steaming to render the meats served here so delicious. The pastrami literally melts on your tongue, and you’ll get it piled unspeakably high onto soft, rye bread with mustard or Russian dressing if you like. The same is true for the corned beef and brisket which is so good, you’ll want to take it home by the pound and enjoy it all week. Lots of locals take home a whole roasted chicken with side dishes for a wholesome family meal.

It’s no wonder this culinary trust was featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” on the Food Network. The family recipe for stuffed cabbage was featured on the show and the time-consuming recipe is made today exactly as it was back then. Ben’s stuffed cabbage remains one of my favorite items here, and I had to have another order of it on this visit. Oh, and there was plenty for lunch the next day.

Everyone starts with a plate of assorted pickles and their famous homemade cole slaw, which is crunchy and not swimming in mayo. You might want to split a hot knish to start, or take one home. Kids love them, along with the best Kosher hot dogs around. I had a cup of homemade mushroom barley soup, hearty and delicious, and watched with envy as the gentleman next to me slurped down a huge mug of “Jewish penicillin,” chicken noodle soup with a huge, matzoh ball that will cure whatever ails you. Chopped chicken liver is a must here, made with a recipe so secret, Jay won’t even tell me. Shmear it on some rye bread, or add it to one of their famous sandwiches, which are named for Queens politicians.

Try the Nita Lowey and Gary Ackerman (corned beef, turkey breast, Bermuda onion and Russian dressing on rye). They roast whole turkeys each day, so it’s fresh and homemade. The folks at Parkside Chapels love the chopped liver with tongue, and sliced onions. Heroes by the foot can be made and delivered for your next party too. With Super Bowl Sunday just around the corner, get your order in for a big hero, individual sandwiches, or platters with all the fixings. Don’t forget the cream soda!

The hot entrées at Original Ben’s transport the flavors of another century and winter is the best time to dig in to the Hungarian goulash made with tender beef, carrots and seasonings in a hearty sauce. Chicken in a pot is perfect on a cold night with its tender chicken, vegetables, noodles and kreplach, a Yiddish word meaning a dumpling filled with meat or mashed potatoes. If you prefer a more American style menu, there are nightly dinner specials including Monday’s spring roasted chicken with stuffing, Tuesday’s chili, Wednesday’s meatloaf, and Thursday’s grilled chicken with sautéed spinach and pan roasted potatoes. Friday night remains sacred with baked brisket of beef served with potatoes and carrots.

There are new desserts at Original Ben’s, including a creamy, delicious flan made with coconut milk that’s light and perfectly sweetened. Baklava is rich with nuts and honey on flaky phyllo pastry. Of course, there’s traditional rugelach, fabulous apple strudel, and seven-layer cake.

If you’re into artisanal, hand-crafted food, jump onto this “trend” that has been going on for 72 years at Original Ben’s Best on Queens Blvd. in Rego Park. It’s easy to get to by train and well worth the trip. Happy New Year!

96-40 Queens Boulevard, Rego Park
718.897.1700  800.BENSBEST

Visit them on FaceBook /www.BENSBEST.com

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