When I go to Ben’s Best a classic old-school delicatessen a mere five-minute walk from home I am usually there for one thing, and one thing only. A pastrami sandwich on rye and a can of Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda. I am vaguely aware of the existence of other items on the menu, including a list of sandwiches as long as my arm, all named after local landmarks or customers. I say vaguely aware because on most visits I never open the menu. Yesterday I stopped in and opened the menu. And there it was at the top of section labeled Something Different, “KNISHWICH. Knish stuffed with your choice of Corned Beef Pastrami 8.95.” Upon seeing it I flagged down the waitress as if hailing a cab at rush hour. I immediately ordered the pastrami version of this newfound treat, specifying that the pastrami be juicy. And a Cel-Ray, natch.
The knish itself is of the square variety, which at one time could be had at most any New York City hot dog vendor. I grew up with them in my freezer. At college I’d occasionally treat myself to a knish grilled cheese at a little hippy dippy café called the Rainy Night House. But this, this knishwich is clearly a snack of staggering genius. Fanned out on top of the bed of potato are several slices of glistening pastrami. They were at that point that Ben’s owner Jay Parker likes to call “cotton candy.” The combination of the salty spicy juicy beef and the warm potato knish was indeed something different. And something quite delicious. I want another one right now. Were it not so cold I’d take that five-minute walk and go get it.
Ben’s Best, 96-40 Queens Blvd., Rego Park, 718-897-1700