Name: Park Bench Delicatessen
Location: 100 Park Ave., Binghamton, NY 13903
Phone: (607) 231-8452
Price: Around $5 per person
Always in search of good lunch options, I headed to the Park Bench Delicatessen on Binghamton's South Side without having any idea what to expect. There doesn't seem to be much information on the internet regarding the small shop on Park Avenue. So with an empty stomach and an open mind, off I went to check it out.
Externally, the Park Bench appears rundown and has probably seen better days. I was hoping that the inside would show an improvement. It did not. The store consists of two small booths if you want to eat there, and the rest of the space is taken up by a long deli counter with various hunks of Thumann's brand meat on display. To be frank, the place kind of creeped me out. There was a weird, oily odor (perhaps kerosene) permeating the store, and it looked to be in need of a thorough scrubbing. The deli meats on display looked kind of gross and no regard for presentation was shown. There did not appear to be any kind of menu to order from. And perhaps most problematic, when I walked in the store, there was literally nobody there. I stood at the counter for several minutes before a woman emerged from a back room. She was on the phone, clearly in a heated argument with someone, and motioned to me to wait before going back into the back room again. A couple more minutes later, she re-emerged and I was able to place an order. I elected to try out a roast beef sub with lettuce, tomato, mayo, and Swiss cheese to-go. A few minutes and $5.00 later, I was out the door, sub in hand. Hopefully the sandwich would surpass my dwindling expectations.
The sub was OK, average at best. I liked the sub roll itself, noting that the Park Bench gets their rolls from nearby DiRienzo's Bakery (another place I need to stop by at some point). The roast beef was relatively thickly-sliced and not bad, but I got the sense that the lettuce and tomato were not the freshest and the mayo was a little warm (I ate the sub within 5 minutes of receiving it on a very cold day, so there's little chance that the mayo warmed up in transit). The lettuce was browning a bit and the tomato was mushy. Overall, this sub was OK, I guess. But it left me regretting that I hadn't stopped by nearby Nezuntoz instead.
As you can surmise by my second paragraph, I was extremely unimpressed with the Park Bench Deli. I love little neighborhood places like this ordinarily, but the combination of poor customer service and a sketchy, odd-smelling store did not sit right with me. My sense is that the Park Bench stays in business by serving a small set of loyal, regular customers. I will not be one of them.