Star Deli Benson: A restaurant and gallery in one


Jeff Turner

Star Deli is a restaurant and gallery located in Benson on North 24th Street, as well as a downtown location. They offer deli sandwiches and double up as an art gallery. They have a certain vibe to them, like a friendly neighborhood hangout where a customer can count on a quiet and relaxed environment. An excellent contrast to some of its competitors, it is one of those small-neighborhood eateries where a customer can just sit down, relax and not worry about life, even for just a moment.

Started in 2010, it was something that came about as the result of a bar deal falling through.

“We had the equipment and just decided to go for it” said James Drake, the gallery director. The locations were chosen within proximity to his house in Dundee. Drake had been cooking fine dining for seven years, and he and the people working with him have experience with these dishes.

The big difference between Star Deli and a more mainstream sandwich shop like Subway is that they smoke, brine and roast their meats in house. When a consumer picks up a sandwich, they are getting something with as minimal processing as possible. “It’s not the most cost effective way of doing things, but it’s the best way to achieve the highest quality.”

To get a sandwich, an order must be placed, and then the customer just sits and looks at the artwork for the 10-15 minutes it takes to make the sandwich. The combination of a fast, casual deli with an art gallery are complimentary to each other.

Star Deli also offers a large array of work by burgeoning artists.

“My wife is a UNO graduate and we do a lot of networking with people she knows. We also put out an application for artists on Facebook, and twice a year we have an open call for any artist to bring
artwork in.” Drake said, “We don’t discriminate, there will be artists ranging ages from 10 to 92 that submit work.”

Some local Omaha artists that contribute include Jacqueline Smith, who rediscovered her passion for art after spending time teaching it to elementary school children in Belize during an internship. Her work has a vibrant color to it, as though the subjects of her paintings are trying to break free from their two dimensions. Another is April Taylor, whose paintings border on realism, but are just detached enough to not be considered such. Both artists’ work can be found on or on the raw artists Facebook page.

The French dip is among one of the Deli’s most appetizing dishes. With tantalizing roast beef coupled with au jus sauce and melted provolone cheese, it is addictive and mesmerizing. Some other dishes include the Cubano, with house smoked ham, roasted pork loin, pickle slices, swiss and homemade Dijon sauce as well as the pork carnitas with Spicy shredded pork, fresh avocado, tomato, red onion, jalapeño, fresh cilantro and lime.

Star Deli is a good restaurant that offers good vibes at prices on par with Subway, but that promise less processing in the food.