Benji’s Burrito Bistro a boon to Kaiserslautern food scene
It’s usually a positive sign when a restaurant is packed beyond its capacity. So you can imagine how exciting it was to try my first bite from Benji’s Burrito Bistro in a city park a couple blocks away from the restaurant.
Waiting in the snaking line extending outside of the eatery’s small Landstuhl, Germany, shopfront and transporting the takeout bag to a second location only heightened the anticipation, and with it my expectations, which were already elevated. Really good Mexican food is hard to find in the Kaiserslautern area, and I was hoping Benji’s might give me a new go-to. I took a seat on a wooden park bench and with contained optimism cracked open the lid of my burrito bowl.
Turns out I had no reason to manage my expectations — Benji’s would have exceeded them regardless. Every ingredient was absolutely delicious.
My burrito bowl started with a base layer of fluffy, flavorful cilantro-lime rice and black beans. Then I piled on the protein — chicken and steak, for which I gladly paid a double-meat upcharge. Then came the tangy pico de gallo, crisp lettuce and shredded cheese for which a proper adjective didn’t immediately come to mind but was nonetheless really good.
I don’t like guacamole, but my wife does and she let me know that it was outstanding. She also ordered shrimp and steak on her bowl as part of a surf-and-turf promotion. This made me rather jealous, thus continuing my tradition of kind of regretting my eventual order even though I spend so much time in advance thinking about it. But it was hard to regret anything after a meal this delicious and satisfying.
The arrival of Benji’s is a game-changer for my family. We used to make the trek up to Chipotle in Frankfurt — by the way, there are two Chipotle locations in Frankfurt if you haven’t heard — to satisfy this particular craving. But Benji’s delivers a Chipotle-caliber experience right here in the KMC.
To my mind, counter-service fast-casual dining represents the Platonic ideal of restaurants. It’s more sophisticated than the typical fast-food experience, where you order by number and awkwardly await your bag or tray. It’s more empowering than a table-service restaurant experience, which for me often consists of at least 20 percent scanning the horizon for our missing server. The only styles that can hope to compete with fast-casual counter service are delivery and buffets. But both have drawbacks — the thought that every ambient outdoor noise indicates that your food is finally here and the inherent nastiness of sharing with strangers, respectively — that fast-casual just doesn’t have.
In fact, the only thing that can ruin a fast-casual restaurant is subpar food. That’s not a problem at Benji’s. Count me among those forming a line for more Benji’s burritos in the near future.
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Location: Kaiserstrasse 22, Landstuhl, Germany
Hours: Open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Prices: Benji’s offers a simple menu of four items: burrito, quesadilla, burrito bowl or nachos. Price depends on the protein: chicken, ground beef or carnitas are 8 euros ($8.92), a vegetarian option is 7.50 euros and steak is 8.50 euros. Extra charges apply for double meat and guacamole.
Information: Benji’s has an active Facebook page that is very responsive to messages.