Ben’s Best and I have an odd relationship. Since I moved back to Forest Hills, I’ve eaten their food three times – twice in one month about 2 years ago, and then I got so mad, but not at them, that I gave up firmly for the past two years. I finally decided to give it another go right before I left for Peru, but am going to include all of the pictures.
The first time I walked in was on a rainy day after work. I was tired and hungry, but I got off the bus one stop early, close to Ben’s, and decided to pop in and walk home with the food. I’d been passing by Ben’s every day on the bus home and wondering about it; Google searches for food in Forest Hills had turned it up a few times (and at some point, it even showed up on Serious Eats). After perusing the menu for a bit, I asked about delivery, which wasn’t free – the charge was something like $5, outrageous! I finally settled on ordering a platter of some sort, which included potato salad, cole slaw, pickles, mustard,
four slices of rye bread, and whatever meats I chose. Stupidly, two years ago, I didn’t take a picture of the meats (but I managed to take a picture of the lid of the soup – which I won’t share here!), so I can’t tell you what I had (undoubtedly corned beef or pastrami), but I do recall there was enough to make two good-sized sandwiches, and I ate this happily for several meals. The soup was chicken noodle, which I know I liked a lot because:
On my next visit, when I actually stayed to eat, I ordered it again. I remember distinctly thinking to myself that there was a certain taste to soups I’ve had from kosher delis that I really enjoy – a certain clear sweetness that shines through. I really appreciated that they chopped some fresh dill to sprinkle on top while I ate in the restaurant. Something I didn’t appreciate was the waitress, who I am positive meant well! but it was not appreciated nonetheless, hovering over me and asking me 5 million questions about me taking pictures of the food. She kept asking me and then mumbling “That’s so weeeeeeeeeird! I’ve never heard of that before, people taking pictures of their food!” It didn’t help that the place was empty, but she just kept talking to me as I ate – or tried to eat – and I became more and more uncomfortable.
Standard pickles and cole slaw – tasty enough, but not really amazing like I’ve had some cole slaw.
The menu lists their fried chicken as famous! And sometimes I just get a hankering for fried chicken once I see it on the menu. This was one of those times.
A giant basket of fried chicken! It was piping hot, and I remember taking one piece – maybe the drumstick – and just nomming away on it. It was juicy, but not seasoned enough, a dash of salt would have helped matters quite a bit. But with the waitress hovering over me so much, I decided I would go home and finish my meal in peace, so I asked for her to wrap things up. I took the rest to go.
This is where things turn squicky.
As I walked the 10 minutes along Queens Boulevard (ie, a very large, busy HUGE avenue, for those not familiar) towards my apartment, lost in my thoughts, I was approached by an older man who looked normal. I mean, he was clean, not scruffy or homeless-looking, and I thought he just wanted directions. I live in a good neighborhood – there’s no question about that – and there was no reason for me to be alarmed. He looked like your grandfather. So I paused and he asked me if I had any money so he could buy something to eat.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I do not give money to people on the street (it’s a very rare occasion that I do, in any case). But he asked me for money for food. I had about $15 dollars worth of food in my hand. I guess I was feeling generous, or sympathetic, or something. So I handed over my dinner and told him there was fried chicken in there, I hadn’t touched it, enjoy. He tried to give it back to me, asking me what I would eat, and I said I would think of something, to not worry about it. I walked away, feeling kind of good about myself, feeling pretty, well, generous, because that’s not really my personality type – I’m generous, but not with strangers. Not like that.
After I’d walked a short bit, I turned around and saw the man, hand to god, he was pushing the bag of food I’d just given him into the mailbox that was near where he’d approached me. I can’t even explain to you how enraged I became. I almost ran over there, screaming, but I didn’t for a lot of reasons that I’m sure you can think of on your own. If he really didn’t want it- I told him what it was! He could have told me he’s a vegetarian for all I care! I would have happily eaten my own food! OMG!!!
So although this had nothing to do with Ben’s Best, I couldn’t bring myself to return until just before I headed to Peru.
I generally find Dr. Brown’s cream soda or cherry soda, but was ecstatic to find they have ROOT BEER! It was tasty.
Double the pickles with double the diners!
We started off with an order of stuffed cabbage hungroise.
It was tasty as I expected – thought I definitely liked it more than my dining companion did. We both ruminated on making our own versions to see if we could cater this more to our own personal, specific tastes. This will definitely be done in the near future.
We then opted to split two dishes, first a corned beef sandwich.
Look at that glorious, freshly sliced meat!
It’s stacked high. For comparison, check out this: I put my finger next to another sandwich and you can see the size there. Ben’s Best has flavorful corned beef, very juicy and tender. I was very happy nomming on this.
Ah, the fried chicken. I had to! Don’t you see? I just had to.
Piping hot basket of fried chicken arrived quickly. It was juicy, fried perfectly, crisp on the outside. But unfortunately, it did suffer a bit from the same issue – lack of seasoning/salt. My dining companion suggested that since the neighborhood is filled with older people, this might be done intentionally such that we can add our own salt. Which is a valid point, but if you’re that concerned with your health, you should probably not be ordering fried chicken… 😉
Finally, because we can, we ordered noodle pudding. I once ate a noodle pudding at BF’s family’s something or other gathering, and really enjoyed it, until I found out what was in it. I couldn’t imagine this being the same, but I wondered, so…
It wasn’t quite the same, but very tasty. I imagined it was egg noodles layered with an egg-custard mixture, a can of fruit cocktail, and baked till golden and crunchy on top. I liked it, but not enough to order it again. Enough to try my hand at making my own at home, though (soon).
Yvo says: Strangeness aside, it was a waste to not return for two years! The corned beef is solidly delicious and much closer than any of the famous delis in Manhattan for my corned beef needs, and quite a bit cheaper (though not THAT much). There’s a lot more to the menu that I’d like to keep exploring, and will do so! Mmm, pastrami… you are next!