Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ben's (W. 3rd)

In my experience, whenever Ben's Pizza is brought up, the conversation heads one of two ways: either one is confused and asks, "wait, Ben's of Soho, or Ben's on West 3rd Street?" or there is no confusion at all, and one instead asks, "why would you go to Ben's when Joe's is one block away?" Both are good questions indeed, and begs a third question: "who claims Ben's Pizza is the most famous pizza in the world?"

I don't have an answer to that one, but I'd be willing to guess it's Ben himself. That said, while Ben's may not be the greatest slice in the neighborhood, it serves an important role and well, dammit it's an institution in its own right. I've tried tracking down the history of the joint, but it's a bit fuzzy. Apparently it was formerly called "Ben and Frank's Pizzeria" but I can't find any sources on that. They also claim to have been established in 1956 while Buzzfile has them listed as starting in 1965, but this image of Macdougal Street from 1966 shows what Ben's used to be: a drug store-

See it all the way on the right? Mysterious indeed. History aside, Ben's has become a staple of NYU students, New Yorkers in need of a carbo-load after a night of drinking, and if you're Louie C.K., a crucial pre-show bite before your set:

So what's the pizza like? Depends really - I've found Ben's to be incredibly inconsistent. These are both plain slices from different days:

Woof! Talk about a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, ammiright? One day the plain can pass as pretty decent, while the next day it looks as hungover as the patrons from the night before. Even the better looking 2nd take was a bit over-reheated on the bottom.

Meanwhile their square starts promising with a half-decent rise and an airy, light crumb...

...but frequently gets overcheesed in one uniform whitewashing:

Goo! While Ben's may never be my go-to spot in this neck of the woods, I'll hit it from time to time like checking in on an old friend - even if that friend claims they're the best in the world and their history is shrouded in mystery.

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