Save the Deli

Ben’s Best is Da Best, A Boulder Review, Nate n’ Al the Sequel, and Wilensky’s Highbrow Nod

Buffalo, NY

Well friends, it’s been an insane week. Basically i woke at 5 am the past three days, got on an airplane, flew to a different city (Richmond, Tampa, Buffalo), and did some great JCC talks. I’ve been to the Charlotte airport more times than any man reasonably should, and have seen the sun rise on runways one too many times.

So apologies for not posting. I haven’t been able to do much but sit and wait for the landing gear to deploy.

A few things to catch up on…and for once, it’s not all about me.

Ben’s Best got a great nod from the Zagat guide, according to the Queens Gazette.

Ben’s Best, a Rego Park landmark with 65 years of experience as a consummate neighborhood deli and caterer, has just received Zagat’s “23” (very good to excellent) rating for food quality.

The lofty rating coincided with the publication of Save the Deli, a new book by David Sax, released in hardcover on October 19, which laments the loss of one of New York City’s oldest and most venerable institutions.

“We’re campaigning to help save the deli,” a spokesman for Ben’s Best said. “We’re trying to ride the wave! The neighborhood is changing but the strong are surviving and Ben’s Best is one of the hardiest among them. You can find Mexican, Thai and Italian but you can’t find a good kosher deli like ours. They are a dying breed with only about 21 notable ones left in the city’s five boroughs.”

Mazel tov to Jay Parker; a hell of a deli man, a great skier, and not too bad looking either.

The Boulder Jewish News wrote up my talk at Jimmy and Drew’s 28th Street Deli on Monday night.

Once we were stuffed ourselves, and ready for a little break before dessert, author David Sax took us on a cultural journey of the Food Of Our People. Tracing the rise and fall of the deli back to the destruction of the Second Temple, Sax shared the backstory most of us didn’t know – where the flavors and spices came from and how different groups and culinary traditions melded in the lower East Side to give rise to over 2,000 delis in New York by the 1950s.

But after the Holocaust, there were no more vast waves of immigrants coming to America. The demographic changes conspired with the growth of supermarkets (offering longer-lasting bread and packaged deli meats) to effect a significant change on the deli’s traditional customer base:

For the first half of the twentieth century, deli food was the food of an immigrant people. . . the first generation (in America) eats it everyday. The second generation eats it with their parents, maybe once a week. The third generation eats it maybe once a month. The fourth generation eats it maybe once a year, if that.

Nate N’ Al finally has a second location, says the LA Times. May the Mendelson empire spread accross Southern California like a meaty wildfire.


photo credit: LA Times

The new location is in the Thousand Oaks mall. I have no idea where that is, but I’m sure it’s sunny and there’s plenty of parking. Who will be the Larry King of Thousand Oaks? Go check it out!

Nate ‘n Al, 2200 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. (805) 494-3354.

Finally, I’m on the plane today, reading the New Yorker Food issue, and I am halfway through Calvin Trillin’s story about Poutine, when he takes a detour for Wilensky’s. How awesome.

One Response to “Ben’s Best is Da Best, A Boulder Review, Nate n’ Al the Sequel, and Wilensky’s Highbrow Nod”

  1. Pastramiking Says:

    My good buddy who lives in Burbank was excited for the new Nate and Al’s opening, he also told me that Brent’s (of northridge) was opening a valley location as well. The SFV is going to be a deli empire once those two spots open up within miles of each other in westlake village and thousand oaks.

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