Benny's Puerto Rican Cuisine Done In By Terrible Service

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On a recent excursion to West Kendall, we found our hungry selves at the corner of Coral Way and SW 107th Avenue. There was Benny's, with its proud Puerto Rican flag backlit with a violet hue and posters of food plastered in the windows. How could we not take up the "open" sign on its offer?

We arrived to a nearly empty dining room of tables and booths draped in maroon vinyl tableclothes. Neon beer signs adorned the walls along with portraits of Puerto Rican celebrities and Guy Fieri (who also can be seen on Benny's homepage). Servers were friendly and attentive as they offered menus, took our beverage order, and came back to see if we were ready to order.

We began with the tostones rellenos con carne ($3.95); two fried green plantain cups each with a scoop of meat sauced up and seasoned to vaguely resemble sloppy joes. While the plantain was crisp on the outside, it was delightfully moist inside. The meat mix was not spicy and contained chunks of tomato. It was a good intro, but not overwhelming.

The mango and papaya shakes ($2.95 each) are recommended for their smoothness, flavor, and overall taste. They also helped keep our palates wet as our server failed to get us requested water after our entrees arrived. Next bad sign: he failed to bring two glasses by the time we finished the main course.

The grilled chicken breast with white rice and red beans -- substitute for fried green plantains, at no extra charge -- ($11.95) tasted like it needed a little something to make up for the dryness of the meat and the blandness of the white rice. Nothing exciting about this dish.

The beef steak topped with creole sauce and served with white rice and plantains ($12.95) was requested as rare as the thin cut could be, but came out medium well. It was tough as feared. It was topped in an exotic-sounding creole sauce that turned out to be nothing than a tomato, onion, and pepper sauce missing a kick of spice. The white rice was bland. The plantains were hardly fried and would best be described as dense.

Service had given out after the appetizer was dropped and there was no looking back. We waited with half our entrees sitting in front of us and no glasses of water for so long that our desire for dessert gave out. To-go boxes were requested because $40 was spent on a half-decent meal and something had to be salvaged from the disappointment that was Benny's.

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