In Queens, kosher is cool. With one of world’s largest Jewish communities, there’s no lack of Jewish dining options in the largest of New York City’s boroughs. From the standard deli, to the Israeli-style falafel joint, to kosher sushi, Queens can quench your inner Hebrew hunger and then some.
Ben’s Best Kosher Deli scrunched between two dollar stores on super wide Queens Boulevard in Rego Park, Ben’s Best Kosher Deli rivals Manhattan’s Katz’s as one of America’s finest. Lacking the Hollywood pizzazz, immense size, and buzzing electricity of Katz’s, Ben’s ambiance is that of a neighborhood family diner with a Yiddish twist. Portions are huge, and there’s evidence to support the observation: According to a 2003 kosher-style deli analysis conducted by the New York Daily News, Ben’s sandwiches boast a 5/8 inch thickness edge over their counterparts at Katz’s, with their corned beef and pastrami sandwiches having measured in at a whopping four inches.
For those of you with Andre the giant-sized appetites—or if a poster of a hot dog eating legend Kobayashi adorns your bedroom wall—you might want to consider The Ben’s Best Challenge. The deal is this: down a continent-sized lunch, including a pound of assorted meats on a club roll; a bowl of matzo ball soup; a bulk-sized tub of coleslaw (1/2 pound); a plate of french fries; and two pickles—and earn a slot on Big Ben’s Wall of Fame. Inhale the whole meal and also win a Big Ben’s official soup bowl and a “chance to win” a $100 gift certificate.
No word as to whether Ben’s assumes related medical costs associated with stomach problems or artery blockages. To date, four men have accomplished the feat, and photos of each in a triumphant-looking pose grace the restaurant’s wall. (Below the Wall of Fame is an almost category featuring three people who failed the challenge, each of them appearing dejected and physically ill).
Conclusion: You won’t have the option of ordering what Meg Ryan did in "When Harry Met Sally," but you won’t leave hungry. Of course, if you participate in Big Ben’s Challenge, you may not leave at all.
Naomi’s Kosher Pizza and Falafel: It’s Queens-a-essential. Located on Main Street in Flushing, Naomi’s Kosher Pizza and Israel Falafel has its namesake recipes down pat. With a religious following—both metaphorically as well as literally—Naomi’s boasts an array of Israeli staples. Meals are hearty and cheap, and while most regulars prefer the falafel to the pizza, the latter is still a near-consensus choice as Queens’ leading kosher pie. But we’re not just grading Naomi’s on the kosher curve: it’s known to attract kosher and non-kosher taste buds alike. Bottom line: the food here is just plain good, and worth a visit, regardless of your religious persuasion.
Ice Cream Gone Wild Question: What do spicy hummus, beer and nuts, ketchup, and Cookie Monster all have in common? Answer: They are all flavors at Max and Mina’s Ice Cream shop, another Jewish fixture on Flushing’s Main Street. Max and Mina’s, founded by brothers Bruce and Mark Becker and named after their grandparents, has its origins in family lore: Grandpa Max was a type of mad dairy scientist, who’d tinker with ice cream concoctions and unusual flavors in a makeshift ice cream laboratory.
After Max died, secret dusty recipes were unearthed, and the rest, as they say, was Jewish History. Of course, there are more regular flavors as well such as vanilla and chocolate—you won’t be required to pick from, say, horseradish, sour cream, and lox gelato—that have helped make Max and Mina’s a booming success. It’s worth noting that the ice cream’s all kosher, and the shop is shabbat-friendly, closing at sundown Friday and re-opening exactly a day later.