So the evening began at Ben's. You know that an appreciation of good deli is in my genes, and Ben's has become a Long Island institution and a favorite place to satisfy my cravings.
I'd never been to this location before. Its proximity to the Tilles Center is what drew us here.
The food was excellent, the same quality I have come to expect from Ben's. Crisp cole slaw, half sour and sour pickles are placed on every table.
Tonight I ordered a soup and sandwich combo. Matzo ball soup -- a clear chicken broth with thin noodles and a large, fluffy matzo ball, served with a few slices of challah and margarine, could have been a meal unto itself. Half a sandwich, rye overstuffed with hot pastrami, so large I couldn't finish it. And yes, the square knishes are finally back -- Gabila's has finally recovered from last September's fire.
The food did not disappoint.
The service, however. . . Nothing major went wrong, but a lot of small things added up to a disappointing experience. One of our party got her hamburger long before the rest of us got our sandwiches. A sandwich ordered with Russian on the side was served without dressing. French fries did not arrive until we were almost finished with our meal. No one offered drink refills. When the waiter was told that we were pressed for time (the Tilles Center was beckoning) he said he would get our check "right away" -- then went to chitchat with a group at another table. I suspect they are frequent diners at this location.
Then it was on to the Tilles Center and a touring production of "Man of La Mancha".
I saw "Man of La Mancha" with my temple youth group at the Westbury Music Fair in 1972. It was the second professional show I'd seen (the first being "Fiddler", of course). It starred Howard Keel and Lainie Kazan. Westbury is set up as theater in the round, perfect for the minimalist set used in most productions. Loved the show so much that I appropriated my father's original cast recording and played it over and over . . .
Tonight was the first time I'd seen a production of the show since 1972.
Overall I liked the show, but . . .well, when your supporting players outshine your leads. . ..Sancho was excellent, but Don Quixote was weak and Aldonza sounded like a good girl pretending to be bad. They did the whole show without an intermission, as written. The flamenco dancing before the overture was a nice touch.
Nevertheless, live theater and hot pastrami = a happy songbird.
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