Written by Marilyn Hansen with M.J. Boyer
Ben Benson's Front Porch, 123 West 52nd Street, New York, 212-581-8888, it is a delightful outdoor dining terrace just outside Ben Benson's Steak House. The 60-seat shaded terrace is surrounded by fresh flower beds and seasoned greenery, providing a relaxed country club atmosphere in the heart of Manhattan. Its an atmosphere that's both casual and sophisticated, with four-square tables spaced for privacy and comfort. The custom-designed Italian armchairs, flawless white linen napery and tableware and impeccable service combine to make the venue an extra-special dining destination.
So settle in for an enjoyable lunch alfresco, order your favorite summer drink and peruse the special Front Porch menu, offered from noon until 3:00 p.m., Monday -Friday. Appealing light entrees such as café skirt steak with mashed potatoes and caramelizd onions; fish of the day with a tomato, basil and black olive salsa; seafood salad chock-full of shrimp, poached scallops and calamari with green and red peppers, onions and cilantro in a lemon vinaigrette; filet mignon salad with red bliss potatoes, french green beans and mustard lemon dressing. Sandwiches, too, such as a salmon BLT with applewood smoked bacon, grilled red onion and a saffron honey dill mayonnaise served on seven grain bread; grilled chicken with a balsamic marinade, provolone, wild mushrooms, and pesto aioli on a ciabatta roll; the Benson Burger - 12 ounces of chopped steak with lettuce, tomato, and homemade cole slaw. The appeal of the Front Porch is not only eating outside in a delightful environment, but the prices of the light entrees, most priced below $20, along with seven comparable priced salad and sandwich choices that make more than adequate warm-weather meals in themselves. The luncheon menu is available Monday - Friday from noon to 3:00 p.m.The regular full, Ben Benson's Steak House menu is always available.
Hours: Front Porch and inside: Mon.-Thurs. noon-11 p.m.; Fri. noon-midnight; Sat. 5 p.m.-midnight; Sun. 5-10 p.m. Front Porch - warm weather season.
Smoking: Smokeing area with table dining.
Parking:Free indoor parking after 5 p.m. except Sun.
Wheelchair access with assistance.
Settle in with a big drink - try the 10 oz. martini ($7.50) - and a rundown of the menus. Be forewarned, the servings are huge! There is no prix fixe, everything is ala carte and the prices are the same at lunch and dinner. There is an extensive wine list, also house wine by the glass ($4.75), select vintage wines ($5.50-$9.75 per glass), and draft or bottle beer ($4.00).
Appetizers include many old and new favorites: shrimp cocktail ($13.95), lobster cocktail ($15.75), lump crabmeat casserole with wild mushrooms ($15.75), warm grilled portobello ($9.75), chicken escarole soup ($6.25).
Steak is the word here; prime U.S.D.A. beef is dry-aged and broiled to your order at searing temperatures. The moment of truth when the steak is done is judged by the broiler chef with the touch of a finger. Beef selection: sirloin steak ($30.95), filet mignon ($30.95), T-bone steak ($32.50). Also featured are triple lamb chops ($31.95) and broiled veal chop ($32.50).
Fish cookery is honed to a fine art when prepared in Ben Benson's own straightforward style. Fillet or steak is drizzled with a few drops of heavy cream and clarified butter, then flash-broiled and served simply with lemon wedges - the result is the epitome of flavor. Broiled fillet of sole is $18.95. An impressive cold seafood platter including lobster, crabmeat, shrimp, and salmon is $30.00 and also cold poached salmon is $25.00.
Salads span the range from hearts of romaine with caesar dressing ($8.50), tomato and onion ($6.75) and Ben Benson's special salad: chopped vegetables with anchovies, a great combination ($8.50). There is a cobb salad, including steak strips, at lunch for $18.50.
Sides: spinach, sauteed or creamed ($6.50), mashed potatoes with caramelized onions ($6.75), and mushroom caps ($5.95).
If you can manage dessert after all this, try the delectable cheesecake ($6.25), spicy moist carrot cake with cream cheese frosting ($6.25), or key lime pie ($6.25). Bread pudding fanciers will love the award-winning bread pudding with Wild Turkey sauce ($6.25).
Hours: Monday-Thursday 12:00 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday 12:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m. Saturday 5:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m. Sunday 5:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.
Smoking: tables around the bar.
Credit Cards: All major
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.