Sunday, September 27, 2015

Benito's ~ Fort Worth, Texas

Benito's is a legendary Mexican restaurant in Fort Worth, having come around before such establishments were commonplace. We'd never actually been, until very recently. I see places such as this as a good barometer to see where the RJG fits in the local dining culture. Because of its institution status, much ink has been spilled over the years on the pluses - and minuses - of the food and ambiance. Some say it's the ultimate late night dive to cure a hangover (or conversely to tie one on), while others say they have the best breakfast around. One aspect you will constantly read about Benito's is that it's not Tex-Mex, but rather more authentic south of the border fare. Mrs. RJG, born and raised in Sonora, agrees that it certainly feels like a place from the homeland. The food, on the hand, isn't quite as convincing, but it's definitely not Tex-Mex, this she agrees with. This foreshadows our entire experience I'm afraid. They can't all be good right? I don't always publish mediocre or negative reviews, as we don't wish to hurt struggling establishments. But our review won't put a dent in this steel juggernaut, I can assure you of that. Nor do we want to. But I think it's good for you, our readers, to see where we stand on such places of notoriety. On occasion anyway.

Food: The first area of much dispute you will read about Benito's is the topic of chips and salsa. Apparently they resisted serving them at all for many years, and now they do so - but at a price. This doesn't sit well with current diners who are used to them being complimentary, and excellent at that. When they sit you down, they bring pico de gallo to the table - for no apparent reason. Then they ask if you want chips. Regulars know the routine of course, but it's an odd regimen for outsiders. When we first saw the salsa, we thought it would be great. But it barely had any flavor at all. And I fear to say, the entire dining experience could only be described as bland. Not terrible by any means - certainly good enough - but bland never left my mind as we continued through the meal. The pico for its part is good, with a nice spicy kick. So I spent more time dipping the chips (also ordinary - likely from a local distributor) in that bowl rather than the salsa. I ordered a trio of chicken items, and Mrs. RJG went with Huevos Mexicana. My meal came with a complimentary soup, which in reality was a consomme with strips of raw tortilla. And again, no flavor. Then this big plate of goo came out, and here were the results: The Mexican rice was good, nothing special though. The refried beans were excellent, with a nice smoky taste. It was the best part of the meal. You don't want the refried beans to be the best part of the meal. The chicken taco is a waste of time - nothing more than boiled chicken inside of a raw flour tortilla. The chicken enchilada had the same boring chicken smothered with an odd sour cream green and heavy cheese sauce. By the looks of it, I thought it would be flavorful at least. No such luck. The chicken flauta, on the other hand, was much better. Crispy and with a better cut of white meat chicken. My only gripe is they smothered it in sour cream, which I don't personally enjoy (and it wasn't mentioned on the menu as such, which is annoying). So I had to rub that off. Mrs. RJG had the exact same reaction regarding the rice and beans. The eggs were well done per her request, but still a bit oily (in her words). Not bad she said. The corn tortillas were from the bag as well.

Drink: They are known for their frozen margaritas, and it's easy to see why. We ended up with large ones (though had intended on ordering regular). Oh well, had to take one for the team right? Out came this globe of lime green goodness, overflowing the rim. No matter what my reservations on Benito's is, one cannot deny they give you all they can for your money (chips aside). At first I thought the margarita to be too sweet, but ultimately grew to love it. Of course, it helped that they tilted the tequila bottle in the right direction. The margarita on the rocks was met with a similar response from the spousal unit.

Location: In a wonderful standalone building off of the lovely street of restaurants known as Magnolia (Benito's is between Fairmount and 7th Steet - north side). Technically in the Near Southside neighborhood, and across the street from the Fairmount neighborhood. The restaurant itself is brightly decorated with the local flavor of real Mexico. It reminded me of the restaurants on Maple in Dallas when I first started getting into Mexican food in the 1980s.

Notes: Benito's first opened in 1981, and has been gathering local awards ever since.

Rating: 2.5. 'fraid so. Can't go above average on this one, sorry folks. Not sure if you agree or disagree? This is where Mr. and Mrs. RJG stand at the current time (always willing to be convinced otherwise). It seems to me that Benito's is a restaurant of a past era's palate, where spicy food (not necessarily meaning fiery hot either) was still a rarity and not expected. It also appears to be more about quantity over quality.

Website

Hours: Mon-Thu: 11-9; Fri: 11-2a; Sat: 10-2a; Sun; 10-9

Benito's Restaurante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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