Why: Benny’s Rod & Custom Pizza Cafe opened in 2006. The restaurant’s menu focuses mainly on classic sandwiches and burgers, as well as a variety of specialty pizzas for the whole family to enjoy.
What I tried: I settled on the Westerner sandwich with coleslaw, and my dining companion had the bacon cheeseburger with cottage cheese. We also ordered a Donna’s Favorite pizza. The Westerner starts with sourdough bread. Roast beef, cheddar cheese and tomato are added and then grilled to a warm, toasty finish. I found the sandwich tasty and the meat was lean and juicy. I appreciated that there was no mayonnaise or other condiments on the sandwich. I did not need anything other than the meat, cheese and tomato. The accompanying coleslaw is made in-house and was served lightly sweetened and crunchy-fresh.
My dining companion enjoyed the bacon cheeseburger, which was topped with mayonnaise, lettuce, onion and tomato.
Donna’s Favorite pizza is a red sauce pie generously topped with Canadian bacon, sausage, pineapple and pepperoni and just enough cheese to stick it all together. The crust, with its hearty, crackerlike presence, reminded me somewhat of Pizza Hut. The overall flavor was just what I expected from the ingredients.
Menu highlights beyond what I tried: Onion rings, zucchini sticks, clam strips and hot wings are among the starters. The classic selection of sandwiches includes a BLT, French dip, patty melt, turkey melt, Philly, Reuben and a fish sandwich. Other than a basic dinner salad, there is a taco salad, a charbroiled chicken salad, a shrimp salad and a chef’s salad. There are 19 specialty pizzas, but you can customize your own from 22 toppings. Gluten-free pizza crust is available.
I thought the Hi Boy pizza, made with Canadian bacon, salami, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, onions, pineapple, green peppers, shrimp, beef, sausage and tomatoes, sounded good. Burgers include a mushroom burger, a Hawaiian burger, a BBQ burger, and the Benny’s Big Burger, stacked with a 6-ounce fresh-certified Angus beef patty, mayonnaise, cheddar, Swiss, ham, bacon, egg, lettuce, onion and tomato. The black bean burger offers a meatless option. For dessert, choose between a brownie with ice cream or a fried Twinkie with ice cream.
Atmosphere: The way the space is configured, it feels like a stand-alone restaurant, though there are a few shops to the south. The decor is all things custom, from the perspective of a car enthusiast. The main focal point is a lift, complete with a car frame atop, under which booths are constructed. A big tool chest sits at the entry and car photos, signs, and other memorabilia tastefully create the garage-turned-restaurant vibe. Large, comfortable booths provide all the seating.
Other observations: The service was very friendly and attentive. The food was very appetizing and the prices are fair. The atmosphere was comfortable, well-kept and clean.
Cost: Starters are $2.75 to $8. Sandwiches are $6.25 to $10.25 and come with a bowl of soup, fries, potato salad, coleslaw or cottage cheese. You may add onion rings or tots for $1 more. Soup of the day is $3.50 for a cup and $4.50 for a bowl. Salads cost $3.95 to $10. Pizza is available in sizes from individual to large and costs from $6.15 to $25.35. Burgers are $8.25 to $13 and are served with the same options as sandwiches for $1 more. Chicken strips are $8.95 with fries and ranch. Alaskan cod fish and chips are $11 for a three-piece meal and $13.25 for a five-piece meal. Kids meal options are $4.50 to $5. Desserts are $1.25 to $4.75. Handmade milkshakes are $4.95 and a root beer float costs $4.75. Beverages are $2.25 and $2.95. Beer is on tap.
If you go
What: Benny’s Rod & Custom Pizza Cafe
Where: 4219 N.E. St. Johns Road, Vancouver.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Contact: 360-993-0284 or bennyspizzacafe.net
Health score: Benny’s Rod & Custom Pizza Cafe received a score of 15 on March 1. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants with a score of 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.