James Felder on “Dopey Benny’s”

James Felder of Snapshot Artifact offers another Feldery food review.

DOPEY BENNY’S – 147 East Houston

Dopey Benny’s appears to have been set-up for serviceable after-boozing eats. I’ve been there twice. The first time it was a little better than serviceable. The second time it was a little less than serviceable. So it averages out to be what it aims to be.

This clean & cozy chrome hole in the wall is nestled right next the Sunshine Theatre on East Houston. The gimmick is mini-Philly cheesesteaks. An idea I welcome, as I’m always bloated after a full cheesesteak. If this is what you’re after, Dopey does the job; though I might also suggest 99 Miles to Philly on Third Avenue and 12th, which tackles the problem with a little more finesse and authenticity with their 3/4-sized cheesesteaks.

Benny’s has a special for those who wander in seeking refuge from the noise and liquor of the weekend: eight bucks for three mini-cheesesteaks, a soda, and fries. It’s a good deal. It’ll fill a thin man, and sate a fat man until the next beer.

Two options apply to each sandwich: toppings and cheese. The toppings are ethnic-themed (Korean with scallions and Hoisin, Mexican with Guac and salsa, etc…) and the cheeses are the standard assortments of Provolone, Whiz and so forth. The counterman is wonderfully obliging to you as you mix and match each of your three cheesesteaks.

Surprisingly the novelty toppings are good, while the classic cheesesteak is bland and worth avoiding. The first time I ate there the bread struck me as wonderfully complex: soft, tender, gummy, crisp all at once — a real treat. The second visit it just struck me as gummy, while my companions raved about it; so it might be a novelty thing, like how dumplings always taste better the first time you order them at a Chinese restaurant.

Don’t order any of the cheesesteaks with chicken. Bland. If you must have chicken, go to Bereket Turkish Kebab House on the corner nearby and get it done right.

The sodas, proudly no-name generic, do feature a fountain RC cola though, for those of us with a sweet spot in our hearts for that.

The fries come with dry rub potato chip variety seasonings: sour cream & onion, BBQ, etc…. It does the job of putting hot starch in your belly. But if you want a special side order with a cheesesteak, hit Philly Slim’s on 9th Avenue and 55nd for the Romano-dusted fries. Benny could take a lesson from that.

All in all Benny’s is exactly what it promises: an oasis when the respectable world has locked itself away for the night, but not necessarily worth adding to your dining-when-sober list.

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