2018-06-13 / Features

Ben’s Best Deli, Historic NY Deli To Close

Jay Parker, the longtime owner of Ben’s Best Delicatessen at 96-40 Queens Blvd, Rego Park, which has been serving generations since 1945, plans to close on June 30. After the news surfaced, Michael Perlman, chair of Rego-Forest Preservation Council, submitted a preservation proposal to Parker, who is receptive. He responded, “I had every desire to continue the business through other hands. If you find an interested party, we can reconstitute the business. My staff would love to continue working here.”

Perlman stated, “Time is of the essence to find an individual who will take over this historic business, which is known citywide and even nationally. Ben’s Best offers soulful kosher deli food in a classic ambience, and has attracted celebrities and landed spots in movies and on TV. This is one of the last mom and pop-style delis citywide. An unofficial landmark can be yours!”

Ben’s Best was opened in 1945 by Benjamin Parker and was purchased by his son Jay Parker in 1984. “There was approximately 1,500 kosher delis in the five boroughs in 1938, but today there are about 12 remaining,” said Parker.

In an average week, Parker would serve an estimated 900 pounds of pastrami, nearly the same for corned beef, and around 250 pounds of white meat turkey. Ben’s scored a Zagat excellent rating of 4.3, as one of the few Zagat-rated delis. Ben’s Best caters private and corporate events, has a national air freight business, and has enticed the palates of numerous notables, including Israeli President Shimon Peres, actor and comedian Jerry Lewis, Senator Jacob Javits, Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Mayor Ed Koch, and Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Ben’s Best’s history and family-style dining room have been a creative draw, transforming it into a production set. “The Comedian,” a Sony Pictures Classics film starring Robert De Niro, Danny DeVito, and Leslie Mann, had a wide release in theaters on February 3, 2017, and Ben’s Best was featured in four scenes, with owner Jay Parker cast as counterman.

Ben’s Best was featured in the book, “Legendary Locals of Forest Hills and Rego Park,” by Michael Perlman and on The Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” in season 11, episode 9: “From Crepes to Kreplach.” The deli also appeared in “Deli Man,” a documentary which chronicles the background and future of deli owners around the country.

The classic decor features an appetizing counter, portraits of notables, plaques, and a 65-seat wood-paneled dining room with historic Rego Park scenes and a painting of Benjamin Parker. A map reads “You’ve been in our home. Where is yours?” and allows patrons to pin their residences. Designed by famed artist Harry Glaubach is a classic wooden work, which provides a model of Ben’s as imagined on the Lower East Side and memorializes the Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, and The Three Stooges. The famed logo on the façade sign and menu depicts a man on a bicycle riding by a deli window.

For those who are interested in purchasing Ben’s Best Delicatessen in Rego Park, or providing leads, contact preservationist Michael Perlman, who has also brokered Manhattan diner deals and helped save Forest Hills Stadium and Cinemart Cinemas, at unlockthevault@hotmail.com.

To see Ben’s Best photos and memorabilia, courtesy of Michael Perlman, Rego-Forest Preservation Council chair, visit www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1010031801 4523412&type=1&l=57b6ee13af

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