THE BLOG
09/30/2015 01:04 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

That Ain't Kosher

I hope the first section of this two part blog got your taste buds warmed up. Spoiler alert, that is going to change, thanks to Joe at Ben's Deli...

Here's where the story about eating with Carmine's family ties in. I know you were wondering why I was talking about that earlier. I wanted New York Jewish Delicatessen food but I wanted it to be "family style", so my family and friends could try a little bit of everything. I asked our waiter Manny to please bring some Dr. Brown's soda; Black Cherry, Cream Soda, Cel-Ray, I wanted all of it. Then, I ordered kasha varnishkes, stuffed derma, and fried kreplach. Man...I just realized that I forgot to order a knish! Manny took the order and headed to the kitchen. I explained to Rey Rey what the pickled tomatoes were and we all dug in. Over a plate of pickles and cole slaw, we began discussing how great it was to be able to eat this food so far away from New York. Rey Rey said "wow, this is great food!" We read through the menu and Manny returned, taking our orders. Rey Rey and I each order the same Corned Beef sandwich, on rye. We both agreed, once again, how amazing the pickled tomato was and how delicious the garlic pickle was. It was crisp, cracking with each bite, and had the perfect about of garlic flavor. Yum!

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Rey Rey loved his Corned Beef on rye

Rey Rey has a 13 month old baby and I was very impressed at how well she was behaving. It was at that moment that Paul Bearer's doppelganger, the schmuck in the black shirt, returned to the table. He abruptly interrupted our conversation and meal; he was standing next to the baby who was snacking on some organic fruit treats. He said "We run a kosher establishment. Are those Kosher? If they aren't they gotta go." I thought Rey Rey's PTSD from the war was going to kick in and he was going to get up, all 6'3" 275 pounds of him, and pop the guy's head off like a pickled tomato! Rey Rey didn't know what Kosher meant; heck, I'm Jewish but since I don't practice Kosher, I don't really know what it means. The guy grabbed the baby's bag of snacks and said "if this doesn't have the symbol on it it, it has to go!". The baby started crying, Rey Rey put his face into his hands; this was clearly not going well. Rey Rey's wife put the snacks away, the guy in the black shirt, who I later learned was named Joe, disappeared again. Another crisis everted. But who needs this kind of stress at dinner? My guests were clearly unhappy and to be quite frank, I was embarrassed. I felt like it was my fault for bringing them to Ben's. Joe could have handled it differently. He could have had a professional demeanor; explained what Kosher was and why they could only allow Kosher food. Joe was not a very welcoming person. In fact, our waiter Manny apologized for Joe's behavior. He said that Joe often came across to customers as rude. I asked if Joe was the owner, thinking that there was no way he could get away with being so terrible to customers unless he owned the joint. Manny explained that he didn't own the place, but he was their floor manager, or something to that extent. So Joe was a manager, and in under an hour, two of his subordinates were having to apologize for his behavior? Something was wrong with that picture. Shouldn't a manager lead by example? Regardless, we let it go. Manny brought our corned beef sandwiches out a few minutes later and they were phenomenal. I ordered half a dozen rainbow cookies for good measure and then got the check. I handed Manny my Black Card, Rey Rey insisted on paying half despite my best attempts otherwise, and Manny split the check down the middle, kinda like how Joe split my love of that Deli down the middle. The food was amazing but that guy left a bad taste in my mouth. When I see a problem, I try to think of a solution. Maybe in the future, when seating families with infants, they can explain that they're a Kosher restaurant, maybe even provide a pamphlet. They could make it clear what Kosher means, and ask that if while dining in their restaurant they kindly refrain from giving the baby any non-kosher food. I don't own a deli, nor have I operated one for over 40 years like Ben's, but that seems like a more reasonable approach to me because it's not always what you say, it's how you say it.

In closing I want to pose a question and I will leave it open to Ben's to answer. I was dining at the Deli on Saturday, the day which Sabbath is observed. How can a restaurant be Kosher yet be open and serve meat on Shabbos? Maybe Joe can explain...

PS: My mom says that the fruit snacks would be kosher Joe!