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Shorewood’s Classic Kosher-Style Restaurant

Benji’s Deli serves borscht, matzo, kreplach and more

Oct. 11, 2016
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benjisdeli
Photo via Benji's Deli and Restaurant Facebook

There’s really no place in the Milwaukee area quite like Benji’s Deli & Restaurant in Shorewood (also 8683 N. Port Washington Road in Fox Point). Founded in 1963 by Werner “Benji” Benjamin, the original Shorewood location is located at the far end of an unassuming strip mall. The building has become a bit of an anachronism in the neighborhood, which is quickly developing into blasé suburban commercial strip. The restaurant itself also feels just a bit out of time and place, with round red stools at the Formica counter and well-worn booth and table seating. The place is like Milwaukee’s own version of Monk’s, the diner frequented by the gang on “Seinfeld.”

But Benji’s has survived for a reason. Originally catering to a largely Jewish clientele, Benji’s now has a far more diverse, but just as loyal, customer base. The deli got national attention in 2011 when it was featured on the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food,” but has always been a destination stop for travelers in the know. Some of the more notable people who have dined there over the years include Dan Marino, Jackie Mason and—on his recent trip to Milwaukee—Henry Winkler. 

While Benji’s no longer serves kishka and gefilte fish as they did a generation ago, the menu is still heavy on the Jewish favorites. In addition to chili and mushroom barley soups, they offer a chicken broth soup with your choice of matzo ball, kreplach, or kasha. They also serve both beet and cabbage borscht. The cabbage borscht ($3.89-$4.89), with a creamy and sweet tomato base, was a nice warm-up on a near-autumn day. The “Benji’s Favorites” include fried matzo, potato pancakes and their signature Chicken in the Pot ($11.99)—a half-chicken served in homemade chicken broth with carrots, noodles and a matzo ball. Benji’s all-day breakfast includes the standards, as well as their very popular hoppel poppel ($7.29-9.29)—scrambled eggs with potatoes and fried salami—and bagels and lox ($8.99). 

The heart of Benji’s menu, of course, is the deli page. Slow-roasted beef, pepper beef and pastrami—along with the more old-school options of pickled tongue and chopped liver—populate a wide variety of signature and made-to-order sandwiches that range from $8.49 to $13.59. The deli’s hard salami on rye was even enough to impress my Long Island-born-and-bred fiancée.

From the classic Rueben ($11.79) to the intimidating Benji ($13.79), which features a half-pound of corned beef on rye, Benji’s hand-carved corned beef is tender and flavorful enough to impress anyone. The Gonzo ($11.99) is a take on the Rueben, but swaps the sauerkraut for coleslaw. With lightly toasted rye bread and toppings of lettuce and tomato, the Gonzo is a balanced and very filling lunch. The tendency with putting a new twist on an old classic usually veers towards gimmick or overkill, but Benji’s keeps it simple and relies on the quality of the corned beef to satisfy. Add a pickle spear and a side (fries, chips, potato salad or slaw), and you’re ready to nosh. 

Benji’s Deli & Restaurant

4156 N. Oakland Ave.

414-332-7777

$-$$

benjisdeliandrestaurant.com

Handicapped access: Yes

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