Benny's Restaurant looks like it could be a Sonoran joint, or an antique store, or one of those midtown dive bars with the old signs and the dirt parking lots straddling the side of the street.
The Central Mexican restaurant sits in a pretty nondescript building on Grant Road, although it's been painted a lighter color since its blood red days as Fiorito's Italian. Inside, Benny's is homey and tan with a wall-mounted flatscreen TV playing YouTube ranchera mixes and episodes of the Mexican Voice.
If you're like all the other lunchers in the little place, you might be tempted to order the chimichangas or the carne asada platters with rice and refried beans. There's plenty of the sort. But I got a tip. I think you should get this:
These are called "Enchiladas Potosinas," $8.99, not to be confused with the familiar cheese, red beef and green chicken enchiladas elsewhere on the menu. The word Potosina refers to the North Central Mexican state of San Luis Potosí, where owner Irma Palomo is from.
A midsized Mexican plateau state with a mining economy and no coastline, San Luis Potosí is well-known for its fermented prickly pear drink colonche as well as its folded enchiladas, made from corn masa tinged with red chiles. (For a visual guide to some of the foods of San Luis Potosí, check out the photographic menu at this popular San Luis Potosí restaurant Rincon Huasteco.)
The story goes that Enchiladas Potosinas were an accident, the result of a cross-contamination at a local tortilla mill in the small town of Soledad. This mill also processed cascabel chiles, which ended up in local woman Doña Cristina Jalomo's masa ... to everyone's delight.
Because they're technically dry, the Enchiladas Potosinas look and taste more like tacos, spicy cheese-stuffed tacos with a 100 percent homemade masa. (That makes all the difference.) Palomo at Benny's is dedicated to making her masa from scratch, and it is indeed some of the best in town: hearty and soft with a touch of grittiness, texture, depth. My native-Arizonan lunch partners declared it was the best restaurant masa they've ever had.
Palomo also shies away from the fryer, leaving less grease in other Central Mexican staples like sandal-shaped huaraches and circular sopes, $2.49. The latter are round and deep and pinched at the ends, cupping in the ground beef and silken refried beans, like a big edible hug.
Benny's also does gorditas, $2.49, (which I unfortunately have to clarify, bear no resemblance to their Taco Bell brethren). They are bready and crackly at the edges, filled with your choice of topping, shredded lettuce and a healthy dollop of lush Mexican cream.
But Benny's is also the only place in town that serves the mighty pambazo sandwich, $6.49 (pictured up top). It looks kinda like a torta, but it's technically not. The pambazo is actually dipped in a guajillo chile sauce until the spice penetrates the eggy bread, but the edges remain firm. Pambazos are typically stuffed with chorizo, potatoes and a handful of lettuce that spills out the edges. It is messy to eat, but of course, it's definitely worth it.
Benny's Mexican Restaurant is at 2702 E. Grant Rd. Hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. 520-881-8841