It took 38 years.
But Benito’s Mexican Restaurant now serves free chips and salsa.
After nearly four decades as a Nuevo León-style restaurant that resisted the Texification of Mexican dishes, Benito’s now says “yes” to customers, offering complimentary housemade chips and a notably spicy salsa.
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Years ago, original waiter Eventino “Tino” de Leon, the founder’s father, would wag an index finger at diners and say, “No chips! That is not the way it’s done in Monterrey”?
Instead, he served Benito’s enticing stone bowl of fresh-chopped pico de gallo, like in his hometown of Cerralvo.
But even in Mexico, many restaurants now serve chips or tostadas with salsa, and a few even serve Texas chili-and-cheese enchiladas.
So does Benito’s.
There’s more: New barstools, flooring, paint, ceiling fans and serapes from Guadalajara give a fresh look to the timeless restaurant at 1450 W. Magnolia Ave., built in 1950 as one of the city’s early pizzerias.
“It was time for a new look,” said Benito’s executve Arturo Gonzalez.
“The younger customers, they want the chips. That’s what they come for. And they want fish tacos. Whatever we can do for people, we will do.”
Long ago, Benito’s added Tex-Mex enchiladas and also lighter dishes such as avocado enchiladas or spinach enchiladas.
The breakfasts and many of the “comida corrida” dishes (ongoing specials) remain devotedly interior-style.
Even the chicken or beef fajitas are still homestyle, sauteed together with the onions and chopped jalapenos instead of being cooked separately. The result is more flavorful.
“We haven’t changed a thing on the menu, and we haven’t changed a thing in the kitchen — just the decor,” Gonzalez said: “The customers would be upset if we changed too much.”
Something else that didn’t change: the fig tree growing in the middle of the restaurant. It’s been there since the 1950s, when Napiles, Italy, native Carl Tempo ran a restaurant named Italian Villa that served spaghetti, ravioli and Neapolitan-style pizzas.
Lunch specials start at $7.50.
Benito’s is trying to stay ahead of new competition Salsa Limon, coming across the street. Also nearby: the more contemporary Paco’s Mexican Cuisine is a block west, tiny Tina’s Cocina to the east and Esperanza’s Restaurant & Bakery a half-mile south near 80-year mainstay Mexican Inn Cafe.
A few years ago, Benito’s, Esperanza’s and Paco’s were all named to Texas Monthly’s list of the state’s 50 best Mexican restaurants. The magazine praised the Oaxacan tamales wrapped in a banana leaf, the chicken chiles rellenos and the chorizo tostadas.
Benito’s opens at 11 a.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. weekends for brunch, lunch and dinner; 817-332-8633, benitosmexican.com.
Forget baseball. There’s new BBQ
In Texas Live!, barbecue comes first.
The first Tarrant County location of Dallas-basedLockhart Smokehouse
will open at 7 p.m. Thursday, an hour before other restaurants i the new entertainment complex adjacent to Globe Life Field.
Guy Fieri’s Taco Joint, Sports & Social and Troy’s will follow at 8 p.m. as the $250 million project stages a grand opening party including a Toadies concert.
Arlington police and fire units gave Lockhart workers a special escort July 26 when they transported hot coals from the Dallas location to fire up the Arlington pit.
Lockhart is owned by a granddaughter from the Schmidt family, which made Kreuz Market a success in the city of Lockhart south of Austin.
The restaurant has not announced its regular hours yet. It’s at 1650 E. Randol Mill Road, Suite 130; 817-769-1747, lockhartsmokehouse.com.
DQ goes green — chile-pepper green
Finally, Dairy Queen is getting in on the fun of Hatch green chile season.
But the small-town Texas mainstay needs more practice.
DQ unveiled a green-chile Hungr-Buster this month, just as the New Mexico harvest of fresh green chiles is hitting restaurants such as Blue Mesa, Chuy’s, El Fenix and Pappasito’s.
North Arlington has one of the highest-rated Dairy Queens on social media. But on a visit last weekend, the kitchen didn’t seem to comprehend the pepper thing.
A first try at ordering the green-chile Hungr-Buster produced an excellent burger but on a regular doughy bun, not the jalapeno bun advertised.
The manager offered to have it remade. It came out with the right bun but with no green chilies.
Finally, on the third try, the DQ green chile burger arrived correctly.
But the bun was dry. And I don’t know where Dairy Queen gets its recipes, but in Santa Fe they don’t put ranch dressing on green chile burgers.
Try one anyway, and also try adding green chile to any item at Sonic.
And of course, don’t miss the Hatch burger at Jake’s or a Hatch chile patter at Blue Mesa, Chuy’s (beginning Aug. 13), El Fenix, Enchiladas Ole or Pappasito’s (Aug. 8).
(Insider secret: Fuzzy’s Taco Shop sells Hatch green chile salsa, but only in Abilene, Amarillo, Lubbock, San Angelo and Colorado.)