I’ve spoken about Benny’s Bar and Grill at least three times previously, and I wanted to do it once again for two reasons. First, I wanted to capture the place in images. I hadn’t done that before. The second reason was that I had an ordinary crawfish etouffee elsewhere. It was, like too many frustrating plates of Cajun in Atlanta, missing the point. The dish had good ingredients. The dish had a roux. But the etouffee had no real spices to speak of, and when online grocery stores can say of an etouffee:
A proper etouffee will be orange-colored, with a hint of brown. It should be spicy, as it’s main spice ingredient is cayenne pepper, and saucy enough to form a thick gravy for the rice. However, take note that it is not gumbo, and should not be served like soup. The gravy in etouffee is much thicker than the roux of a gumbo.
you have to ask just what people are thinking when they serve underspiced food.
Further, if you look in Donald Link’s excellent Cajun cookbook “Real Cajun“, you find that he uses eight sources of ‘heat’ in his etouffee. He uses a poblano pepper, a jalapeno pepper, and paprika. He also uses ground white pepper, ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper. This is before he adds hot sauce to taste. He doesn’t use a huge amount of anything. The peppers are there to let you know they are there, to tease and cleanse the palate, to make you ask, “Just what flavor is coming next?”
Anyway, I needed something to remind me of what serious spicing is all about, so a visit to Benny’s was truly in order. Mike “Benny” Miller, for better or worse, has the spicing of his food down cold.
The outside of Benny’s is modest:
Outside of Benny's
The sign may be the first thing you see.
Once inside, I started with a beer. They were out of most of their draft beers, but they still had Guinness draft. Guinness draft is lighter than you might expect and very drinkable. If you can handle Harp, Pete’s Wicked Ale, or Sam Adams, you should be able to handle Guinness:
Guinness - lighter in taste than the color suggests.
That was followed with a salad
Vinagrette on the side.
Then a bowl of Benny’s excellent gumbo.
The gumbo has flavor that builds with every bite.
The entree was Benny’s excellent jerk spiced pork tenderloin.
Rich with flavor. Somewhere around here I'm finishing my 2nd Guinness.
The dessert was a pair of Key Lime sticks. I’m sure the dessert was overkill.
Worth every minute of exercise they'll cost.
The restaurant was pleasantly full, with a church group meeting inside. I was able to speak to Mike a bit, all much appreciated. He’s a gracious host, knows food far better than I ever will. His theory on heat is to get the hottest pepper possible, and then add ingredients that add flavor (shallots, garlic, etc). Flavor, to Mike Miller, is more important than pure ‘burn’.
Benny’s Bar and Grill
3902 Highway 78