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Disappointed in Benito's Chicago Eatery (Ballard) - a review


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Restaurants & Bars Greater Seattle

Disappointed in Benito's Chicago Eatery (Ballard) - a review

bgramer | | May 15, 2012 09:13 PM

As a Chicago ex-patriate living in Seattle, I wanted to post a scathing review but decided to sit on it first and make sure my review was balanced and offered suggestions for improvement where it counts because Chicago-style food is difficult to find in Seattle. It is my deep hope that Benito's will change that.

To sum it up, Benito's was a disappointment. You will NOT get authentic Chicago food as it is now. The prices for the sandwiches were way too much. ($9.00 for a chicago hot dog!)

I took my son with me for dinner Saturday night, and ordered the hotdog, beef combo, and pizza because I wanted to quickly decide at one time if this was a place worth returning to.

Ordered a sausage and pepperoni deep dish pizza. It arrived wet and undercooked and the toppings were also in the wrong order. The sausage was basically pre-cooked diced cubes (arguably the same used for the beef/sausage Combo sandwich) instead of sausage balls. The pizza needs to be cooked more and the crust needs to be flakier and more golden-brown. Try a thicker tomato sauce that isn't as wet. Use real pepperoni, not the artisanal salumi-style sliced pepperoni. The meats should be on top of the bottom layer cheese, not the sauce.

Try the Delfino's pizza to get an idea of how the crust should be. It isn't perfect but is the closest example of how it should be.

The hot dog wasn't true to Chicago style. It used a brioche bun (uhhh okay) and the vegetables weren't laid out in how Chicago style hot dogs would be. There needs to be more mustard too. The lime-green relish was probably the most authentic part of this expensive sandwich. An important part of the Chicago hot dog is the bun - don't use sandwich rolls. Keep it simple with a basic potato-like bun. Lower the price and use a different bun and you've got a winner.

The combo italian beef was anything but italian. It was basically deli-sliced beef boiled in au-jus. Pretty flavorless, and put on a french baguette instead of a sandwich roll which made it hard to chew. I ended up eating the meat slices off with a fork instead of biting into the sandwich.

It would be a good move for Benito's to add some italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, garlic, and oil to the juice base, and you'll have a more flavorful sandwich that's close to Portillo's italian beef (or even Johnnie's/Al's/Carm's beefs.) The giardiniera isn't really giardiniera. It really was more like an italian mix with cauliflower, carrots and celery. There were no peppers in it. I suggest revisiting the giardiniera recipe and add peppers. Giardiniera is supposed to be spicy.

Admittedly, this is a soft opening and they are learning as they go, but they need to work out the little details in their recipes and cooking process which is the most critical part of making this place succeed. The small things matter, especially if it is supposed to be "Chicago." The important thing to understand about Chicago-style comfort food like hot dogs, italian beefs, deep dish or stuffed crust pizza is that it is *unpretentious.* Many of these popular places in Chicago are actually low-brow. Keep it simple, don't try to get all-gourmet on it with brioche buns for rubbery hotdogs or french baguette for beefs, etc. That's where you will fail. The magic is in its simplicity.

Right now, I don't think its worth going back to. I'll keep my eye on the reviews around the web and if the recipes get revised enough to be more authentic and also get positive reviews, I'd consider trying it again.

This review is more than one star but there isn't the ability to vote in half-star increments. I gave the extra half star because the service was good despite several flubs. The waitresses were making the best of the situation and really made an effort to give friendly service. There were no high chairs for my son, but luckily, I had my own portable one. They forgot the diet coke and I had to ask them to take it off the bill. Other than that, the service is the brightest spot this place has going for it.

I hope they make changes. When enough changes make it worth going back to, I should post a re-rate as well.

(1.5 stars out of 5)