Benny's from heaven
Tacos Jalisco does a good job of blending the Mexican, New Mexican, Texan and Coloradan styles of Mexican food into one reasonably coherent whole, and even offers authentic side trips into Michoacán and norteño cuisine.
But Benny's doesn't even try. This is wholly and completely a Colorado Mexican restaurant — full of gooey cheese and fat-ass burritos, with enormous nacho platters and (allegedly) 350 gallons of margaritas served every weekend. For me, this has been a go-to place when I want a side of chicharrones (crisp and hot and greasy as hell), a side of green chile (indubitably Coloradan — thick and slick and full of pig) and a stack of flour tortillas behind a couple of cold beers. For years, I never even tried anything else here; I never saw a need. If I wanted tacos, there were better places to go. Burritos? I don't like 'em smothered, and Benny's are as sloppy as a drunken kiss.
But last week, I stopped in with a bunch of friends (one of whom was told by his Latina cab driver that he shouldn't go at all — that she could take him somewhere much better than Benny's) and was treated to my view of the place quadrupled. One of my friends was only interested in the enchiladas. Another, just the same sloppy burrito (smothered with green chile, cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream and guac, requiring not just a fork, but a shovel). The third, only the chicken nachos, extra jalapeño. It's weird, because even with such a long menu, everyone will claim the kitchen does one thing particularly well — and then it's always something different. I will say that the nachos were surprisingly decent for a place that I was convinced could only make chicharrones; I could see myself coming back drunk one night and happily putting away two plates before heading home. And the enchiladas, while certainly a long throw from any kind of authenticity, were soothing in the way that only a giant plate covered in cheese and chile can be.
Benny's Restaurante y Tequila Bar
301 East Seventh Avenue
If you're looking for real Mexican food, Benny's will absolutely disappoint you on almost every level — from the neon beer signs everywhere to the amount of traffic-cone-colored cheese melted on everything. But if it's a taste of that uniquely Coloradan intersection of Latino ingredients and America's love for the deep fryer that you're after? Benny's just might be the perfect place.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Denver dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.