Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Missing Harla May, Finding Benny

The search for a lunch destination in Los Lunas, NM, continues from yesterday's entry.

Although Chuck had stopped at the Brad Francis Ford in Los Lunas for some fuel additive, being greeted by one of the friendly staff members before he got out of the truck presented an opportunity to ask for lunch recommendations that was too good to pass up.

Of the three suggestions, we opted for Benny's II. We entered the parking area in front of Benny's (it was full),moved to the rear (it was full), and finally found ourselves parked in the dirt lot a few hundred feet away (that's our truck on the far right). A full lot is a good sign.

While Chuck parked the truck, I waited by the entrance. At one point, a young man wearing a Golden Arches T-shirt left with a take out order. The competition buying your lunch is a good sign.

The roadside sign proudly proclaimed “Home of the Benny Burger,” but as announced at the base of the sign and proclaimed on a sign in the window: this was also Taco Tuesday. Which to choose?

So, "What is the Benny Burger?" I asked the person behind the counter.

"It is a green chile double cheeseburger (two patties both with cheese) with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, guacamole, mayo, and mustard," was my answer.

"Are you the owner?" "Yes."

"So, you're Benny."

"No, I'm Joey. Benny was the original owner; he's my father-in-law. My brother-in-law now owns the original Benny's. I married into the family," came Joey's answer along with a proud smile. (Joey actually is a tall fellow, but he was collecting some articles below the counter.)

I felt duty-bound to order the Benny Burger. Living large, I opted for the combo with included fries and a beverage. Joey's question: "Is this your first time here?" led to a brief conversation about traveling around the country.

We found the last two chairs in the dining area

and watched as the second wave of diners began to gather at the counter to place their orders.

When the Benny Burger arrived at our table, I had a moment of concern. Boy, those patties looked thin! Would they be hard and dry? No. The meat was surprisingly moist and juicy.

Joey had warned me that the green chile was on the hot side, and so it was. But this degree of heat was necessary to make its way through the rest of the condiments. And the guacamole was a great addition. I know that some people consider eating avocados and guacamole to be the same as eating butter, but I am not counted among them. There is something about the creamy rich texture and taste that I really enjoy.

The coated shoestring fries that came with the combo obviously came from the freezer, but like the fries at the Dog House, they came hot, crisp, and grease-free. As I’ve written before, I would rather have crisp frozen fries than flabby hand cut fries.

Chuck saw a taco platter coming from the kitchen and decided – it being Taco Tuesday after all – that this would be his lunch choice. For $3.75 – yes, you read that right – he got three good size ground beef tacos with cheese and lettuce, a side of rice, and a side of beans topped with green chile. I didn’t taste either the beans or rice, but I assume that they were good, since they disappeared from Chuck’s plate fast enough.

The tacos were tasty, and, as is usually the case, most of the seasoning came from the excellent red salsa that came on the side. As with my green chile, the salsa had enough heat to liven things but was not so hot to be inedible. The salsa came on the side in small cups, and I appropriated a half of one cup to use with my fries in lieu of catsup. It was just as tasty with my fries as it was with Chuck’s tacos.

While waiting to pay our bill, we had the chance to compliment Joey on the food, especially the green chile sauce and the red salsa. We commented on the full dining area, and Joey acknowledged that it was frequently this busy for lunch and well into the later afternnoon.

When I commented on seeing the Golden Arches fellow leaving with food, Joey said that he receives many calls from staff members at area fast food restaurants asking if they could trade food for lunch. A really good sign that Benny's II is held in high regard by its competitors.

The food, along with Joey’s friendly and out-going personality, add up to a 4.0 Addies meal.

We had missed Harla May's Fat Boy Grill, but after finding Benny's II, the disappointment disappeared.

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