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Benny's gets ready to open its drink deck

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Back from Tucson, the land of cheese crisps but no green chile, I ran to Benny's yesterday to get a late-lunch fix. Benny's is a Denver institution that serves Colorado-style Mex to softball teams, book clubs, hatboys, party girls and anyone else who can escape their office on a Wednesday afternoon and dig into a big sirloin burrito smothered in green.

At Benny's, I met up with a pal who remembers back 25 years ago, when owner Benny Armas was a cook at the Oak Alley Inn, a dive in the space now occupied by Hanson's, before he got a chance to open his own spot at 225 East Seventh Avenue (now Mizuna), then moved on to this bigger space at 301 East Seventh. And we soon spotted Benny himself.

Armas was there to check out rthe latest expansion project at Benny's: enclosing the west-side patio that was added just last summer. "Too hot," Benny explained. Even with umbrellas, the summer sun beating down on that patio made it tough to sit out there for long -- and given the often long waits at Benny's, a comfortable waiting space is key.

So now Benny's is putting a roof over the patio, and installing the same garage-door window system it has on the narrow, enclosed patio on the south side. Unlike that patio, this one won't be air-conditioned -- the windows will be rolled up in the summer -- but it will be heated, so that it can be used year-round as a waiting/drinking area.

Benny's plans to debut the new, improved space on May 2, when it will kick off Cinco de Mayo festivities on the "Don Julio Drink Deck," with $3 Mexican beers and pitchers of margs for $15.

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