96-40 Queens Boulevard
Rego Park, NY 11374
(718) 897-1700

The New York deli, like the New York bagel shop, is one of those things that are so quintessentially New York, that pretty much everywhere you go, you're bound to find one that tries to follow that mold. And, like the bagel shops, they pretty much suck everywhere they are outside of New York. The famous ones like the Second Avenue Deli and Katz's are... famous. And loaded with tourists. Ben's Best, on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park, is somewhat off the beaten path, but it's tourist-free. And I'm pretty sure they got mentioned in Esquire Magazine a few years back as part of their "Best Sandwich in America" series, but can't seem to find it online. Maybe it was GQ? Anyway.

The section of Rego Park along Queens Boulevard is one of the most commercialized places in the city that you'll find. Huge shopping complexes line the boulevard on one side and an array of smaller, somewhat dingier places are on the other. Indeed Ben's Best sits just a hop, skip and a jump away from a strip club, should you need to unwind and digest after your hearty kosher meal.

And believe me, Ben's Best will fill you up. I found myself at Ben's Best the day after my friend Pike told me he ordered from them through takeout connection. It reminded me how, for years, I'd been telling myself I'd go there, but never found the time. So, having found said time, I wandered in, sat down, and ordered some food. Ben's Best, like Veselka, is a throwback to an earlier era of dining when there was less fluff involved. No one will ever accuse Ben's Best (or Veselka or Katz's) of having hired an interior design firm.

This wasn't supposed to have been a big meal. All I wanted was soup and a sandwich. I ordered the Matzo Ball Soup and a Roast Beef Sandwich. When you sit down, you'll get a plate of coleslaw with pickles. They don't skimp on the coleslaw, believe me. And it was very good. Have you ever been to a diner and had coleslaw that tasted like it had been made last week and they were using it up? Well, not here. This coleslaw was crunchy very fresh and very good. And they give you way too much of it. The soup was simply fantastic. And like the coleslaw, giant. When the waitress placed the bowl in front of me, I practically fainted. The matzo ball was larger than my fist. There were bits of chicken, some carrot and a peppering of egg noodles in the clearly home-made broth. Finally, my sandwich showed up. At $11, it wasn't cheap and it comes with nothing. No fries, no lettuce and tomato. Just rye bread and meat. So I did have that "am I getting robbed?" feeling. But you get three inches of some of the most tender, moist, just-this-side-of-bloody roast beef I've ever had. Toss on a little mustard and you're in sandwich heaven.

With a can of diet coke, the bill came out to $20 before you factor in the tip. In other words, don't show up with a roll of pennies thinking you'll get some change. But I left with food to take home, filled near bursting. They have plenty more on the menu, so I'll be back.

Ben's Best Kosher Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

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