I am lucky to count among my friends three amazing older ladies. Regardless of our age difference, when we all get together for our monthly lunch date, we chat and giggle like school girls.
This month, our lunch bunch chose to nosh at Ben and Irv’s.
According to its website, Ben and Irv’s Delicatessen was opened in Philadelphia in 1954 by Ben Shure and Irv Chudnoff. The next generation of owners further strived to “to open the absolute best Jewish restaurant and delicatessen in the suburbs” and have been catering to suburban clientele in the current Upper Moreland location since 1994.
The long entrance hallway, flanked by deli cases containing assorted meat and seafood salads, salted fish, cold cuts, bread and baked goods, is usually needed as a waiting area, as tables are first come, first serve.
Often, people line up out the door here to eat food reminiscent of delicious meals at Grandma’s (or Bubbe’s in Yiddish), but when we arrived at 11:30 a.m. on a Friday, we were able to walk right in.
Once seated at one of the many booths, we perused the large menu, and the waitress brought us a generous bowl of various pickles, including a few pickled tomatoes. The dark green pickles taste the most like Vlasic, and my son liked those. The others were tart, salty, and probably an acquired taste.
We all ordered soup, matzo ball for me, and chicken noodle and mushroom for the gals.
The matzo ball soup ($3.99) was really delightful. The doughy orb was nearly the size of a baseball, and the broth was light and flavorful, full of noodles and a few carrots.
The chicken noodle soup ($2.99) seemed to be the same soup, minus the matzo ball, and was similarly classically delicious. I didn’t taste the mushroom soup personally ($2.99), but it looked hearty and thick, rich with vegetables, mushrooms and cream. The ladies liked it.
Soon after the soup, my son’s hot dog arrived ($5.50), split in half and grilled, along with battered fries and applesauce. He was a happy boy.
The crab cake sandwich ($11.99) was meaty with large crab lumps and topped with breaded onion rings. And just when I thought this meal couldn’t get any better, I tasted the thick-cut sweet potato fries. My friend was kind enough to share, but may have regretted offering when we all enthusiastically, and repeatedly, accepted.
The garden burger ($8.99) was hearty, but bland. The tartar sauce served with the crab cake sandwich, rendered unnecessary by the great flavor of the crab, was commandeered to assist the flavor of the garden burger, which was served with a side of steamed broccoli, in case you were in desperate need of more vegetables.
The seafood salad wrap ($9.99) was fresh and tasty, with crisp iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. The fresh fruit salad on the side contained melon, strawberries, pineapple and blueberries.
Notice a pattern, here? Crab, veggie burger and seafood salad?
Yup, it was a Friday in Lent, and my devout Catholic friends couldn’t eat meat. I would have joined them in the sisterhood of solidarity, but, well, Ben and Irv’s is a Jewish deli, and I never pass up an opportunity for a Reuben sandwich.
When it comes to Reubens, you had me at “sauerkraut.”
Unfortunately, the waitress accidentally brought me the corned beef special, which had coleslaw instead of sauerkraut. When I pointed out the mistake, she graciously took the sandwich back, but when she returned with the Reuben 15 minutes later, it was obviously slapped together.
The corned beef was meager – hardly the portion one expects from a $10.99 sandwich. However, some bites were wonderful, with gobs of tangy sauerkraut and creamy Russian dressing, and had there been more of these, and fewer bites consisting of only toasted rye below the melted Swiss cheese, this would have been a really great sandwich.
After paying the check at the register on the way out, some sweets caught my eye.
I bought two for the road ($3 for both). The chocolate rugelach was a small square folded cookie with many layers, crunchy with sugar crystals.
The large triangular hamentashen’s middle was filled with apricot jam, the proclaimed favorite flavor of the girl behind the counter. It tasted like a sugar cookie that crumbled and melted in your mouth.
The restaurant certainly does deli classics well. The matzo ball soup, crab cake sandwich and pastries were all delicious.
My lunch companions are true classics, as well; strong women who gracefully weather life’s challenges with love and laughter. I am lucky to count them as friends.
Especially when they share their sweet potato fries.
Ben and Irv’s Delicatessen earns 3 out of 5 Whisks for good homemade food, just like Bubbe used to make.
Second Helping of Information: Ben and Irv’s Delicatessen
Location– 1962 County Line Road, Huntingdon Valley
Hours – Seven days a week, 7 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Phone – 215-355-2000
Reservations – Not available
On the Kids Menu – Kids menu has breakfast, lunch, and dinner items; high chairs are available; changing table in the ladies room