Eating at Max and Benny's is like diving into a bowl of chicken noodle soup when you have the flu. The food—larger-than-life matzo balls, black and white cookies and fresh pastrami—is always the same, comforting your system and your mind. Named after owner Lester Shlan's two sons, this North Shore staple keeps it all in the family, which after 20 years of business, includes the restaurant's loyal clientele.
The entrance opens up into the takeout deli section, where glass cases display every kind of meat, cheese and pastry you could desire: cheesecake, pie, cookies and coffee cake, bagels, bialys and prepared deli salads. In place of a wall, a long line of freezer cases hold quarts of soup to go, like the signature matzoh ball and sweet and sour cabbage soups. Behind the deli, well-worn booths and tables accommodate as many as 300 diners, and sweeping murals of idyllic towns (with Max and Benny's sitting in the center) depict how the restaurant is rooted in the center of its community.
While the no-fuss atmosphere is a draw for the regulars, it's the food that attracts the crowds. For breakfast—served all day—order eggs Benjamin, two poached eggs on a toasted plain bagel with bacon and melted cheese; a potato or sweet potato pancake with apple sauce and sour cream; or, for a healthier bite, banana pancakes served with sliced banana, low-fat yogurt, bran and egg whites. Lunch and dinner include options like a BLT club (plus the requisite kosher pickle); a Reuben with thinly sliced corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and 1000 island dressing; or Ahi tuna filet with pineapple or teriyaki glaze. Families can opt for a tray of fish—lox or whitefish—and bagels for $22.95. Entrees cost between $3.95-$15.95, and a catering platter costs anywhere from $10.95-$15.95 per person.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Eve Ardell