Benny's Mexican Food
1244 30th Street, San Diego CA 92102 (map); 619-238-1740
Cooking method: Griddled
Short Order: A fast food-style burger that's one of the best burger deals in the city
Want Fries With That? A generous grab of simple and tasty fries come with the meal, so yes
Price: Double cheeseburger meal, $5.70
Benny's Mexican Food doesn't offer much in terms of ambience or location—the family-owned taco shop on the boundary of Golden Hill and South Park is as bare-bones as they come—but for a good, cheap burger, it's worth the trip. Notice I said "good," not "great," or "awesome." The patties aren't a house-ground, proprietary blend of locally-sourced, grass-fed beef, there are no fancy toppings, and the burger doesn't come on a bun that's baked in-house.
That's not what Benny's is going for. What you'll get here is a giant, fast-food style burger with a heap of fries and a can of pop for $5.70. In a town where the average price for a burger and fries has steadily been creeping up to $15, that's worth getting excited about. There's also a single cheeseburger, but for just over $6 (with tax), it seems silly not to go all-out with the double.
One thing worth noting up top, before expectations get too overzealous, is the beef is cooked from frozen. Its greyish hue and chewy texture points to its pre-griddle days being spent languishing in sub-zero temperatures, but it's hard to get too uppity about that considering the price and the source (Benny's is, first and foremost, a taco shop). People come here for rolled tacos, carne asada burritos, and carnitas; the burgers are mainly a side-benefit.
The patties get some nice browning from the plancha and are reasonably moist, but they could use more salt. They're fatty and have some beefiness to them, but generally, the flavor from the burger comes from the toppings, specifically the cheese and pickle. If you find it on the bland side, there's an easy fix. Burgers are served with a small container of hot sauce. Lift the lid, pour it on top, and you'll be good to go. That being said, it's a good idea to gauge your tolerance to the chili-heavy sauce on a fry first. It's hotter than you might expect.
Like the patties, the fries are cooked from frozen. That didn't stop me from nearly clearing the plate. They're good and crunchy, with a puff of potato fluff on the interior. If you don't douse your burger in the hot sauce, it also makes a great dip.
Bargain burgers are a dying breed. If that's what you're after, Benny's is a worthy spot to snag one.