If you’re like most of us and consider a whole block of fresh Parmesan an absolute splurge compared to the normal powder in the green cans, then have we got a place for you! Or if you know exactly what “fromage” means and just where to find “rennet” at your neighborbood store, then again we’ve got the place for you!
Benson’s Best Bites is just the type of store/deli that the southside has been needing for a long time. It is comfortable as Loie and Ezra Benson offer true Mom & Pop service. Plus, the store’s wares are both eye and taste-appealing. The specialty items encourage you to get creative with normally impossible-to-find cooking and baking ingredients. Ezra invites customers to be adventurous with their palates as he offers tastes of exquisite cheeses like the 2008 Paris Fair winning cheese and offers insights to fine foods. Then as you are dining on your choice of specialty handcrafted soups or sandwiches, Loie slips behind you to offer samples of pickles or the 16 varieties of olives that are sold at the store.
The service isn’t speedy, nor should it be. The time and care going into your order gives you ample time to explore the shop. And honestly, we spent twenty minutes just walking around soaking it all in before we could even bring ourselves to place an order. In the end we ordered sandwiches, the very items Ezra never intended to sell when he and Loie first opened the shop.
Ezra explained how he had originally envisioned a fine cheese and cold cuts counter with other delectable treats for the cook, baker, and eater enthusiasts in the area. If he made a few sandwiches here and there that was fine, but the plan didn’t include sandwich specials. After the recommendations of many customers that he make sandwiches with cold cuts and Havarti, he made a decision. He would make sandwiches with what he calls a Havarti Upgrade*. *(Havarti being one of the “fanciest” cheeses found at most grocery stores was as far and strange as most customers had been in the world of cheese.) However, Ezra sought to take them further and farther into the world of fromage.
Needless to say, when Benson’s Best Bites started making sandwiches they were sure to do them right. Our Ciabatta Mufaletta, Mozzarella di Buffala pesto en Carroza, and Dirty Jobs sandwiches were nothing short of spectacular. The Ciabatta Mufaletta has been cut down in size from its New Orleans cousin but retains all the full flavor of the Big Easy original. Both the name and a bite of the Mozzarella di Buffala pesto en Carroza truly are a mouthful in the most delightful sense of the word.
The Dirty Jobs featuring Lebanon bologna, smoked turkey, and smoked mozzarella on white bread was a pleasing surprise. Having been a student from Kindergarten through grad school for the past 18 years-I always think of white bread as that sweet-stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth Wonder bread sort. Nope, what I had before me was pure artisan bread, the very kind that makes you want to cradle the whole loaf and try Pixar’s Ratatouille squeeze on it to find out if it too, “…eez a symphony of crackle.”
Benson’s Best Bites is an eclectic but wonderful store selling everything from gourmet fresh and dried pasta, to spices like saffron and lavendar, to giant hunks of fine cheese or chocolate, to Mexican Coca Cola. And more than just the selling of products, the store and its owners are there to share with you: to share their knowledge and passion of fine food, to share their community involvement (fliers about local events are posted around), and to share their thoughts on the current weather and economic status in the southside.
The store is not the easiest to find as it is located near the back right-hand side of the Manhattan QFC in Normandy Park, but it is worth the trip, well worth it.
Benson’s Best Bites is open M-F 10 am – 6:30 pm and Saturdays from 10am – 4pm serving garlic fries the flavor and balance of which has already been adored all over the internet. If you have any questions, please phone 206-243-2420 or simply stop by the store at 17851 First Avenue South,
Normandy Park, Washington 98148.