Monday, November 21, 2011

The 1950s Diner Experience... Without The Red Baiting: Johnny Rockets Is Fun!

Johnny Rockets
The Good: Good food, Good atmosphere, Reasonable prices
The Bad: Lousy service, Minor food issues
The Basics: Not amazing, but not disappointing, Johnny Rockets is good American diner food for a chain that is recapturing the 1950s diner experience!

Given that I've been holding down an actual job lately - a surprise for all concerned, believe me - I've actually had a little disposable income and my partner and I have enjoyed eating out a little more lately than we did before. To celebrate my government job, my partner and I went out for a day and in the course of our movie and shopping experience, we stopped at the mall's Johnny Rockets restaurant. We'd passed the place by enough times that it was just a mutual craving for burgers and the desire to sit down and not be in the crowded food court at our local mall that inspired us to give it a try this time. And, largely, we are glad we did.

Johnny Rockets is a chain restaurant with a 1950s diner theme to it and I've seen them in malls, but our experience last week was our first. The experience was good enough that I am sure we will go back, even if we don't go back to the same one.


Johnny Rockets restaurants are located throughout the United States, though I've only found them in malls in my travels. The restaurant is a sit-down restaurant with a 1950s diner layout and decor with little jukeboxes on the tables and the servers wearing clean, white soda fountain getups. The walls have photographs of 1950s celebrities like Elvis, Marilyn and James Dean and the music that plays is some of the most recognizable music from the 50s.

Johnny Rockets tends to be decorated so that everything is white and clean. They usually have tables and mildly uncomfortable booths. The walls tend to be decorated with nostalgia-themed artwork, mostly black-and-white photographs. Each table has a jukebox which offers the diner the chance to have a song piped over the sound system for a nickel. That's cute.


Johnny Rockets uses traditional waiters or waitresses. Our servers were all male during the day and they all wore identical white outfits reminiscent of a milk man or soda jerk. The waitstaff was all clean and knowledgeable about the products being served and we were given plenty of time to order, which was nice because by that point in our day I just wanted some serious time off my feet.

But our servers and busboys were not terribly attentive once our order was placed. Dishes sat on the table for our entire meal and this made us feel crowded as we actually had appetizers. I was not impressed by the service.


Surprisingly enough, I was impressed enough by the food to recommend Johnny Rockets. Johnny Rockets delivers exactly what it promises in that it has decent hamburgers and cheeseburgers and the philly cheesesteak I ordered was actually very well-prepared without being greasy. It is worth noting that this is American fast food, not finely prepared multiple-step recipes, but for what it is, it is quite good.

We started our meal off with a Butterfinger milkshake and for the first time in a while for getting a milkshake out, I was pleasantly surprised. The milkshake contained real milk and real ice cream and the portion was fairly good. It also included the extra shake portion in the steel mixing cup, so we felt we were getting a value with the drink. It was quite good and well-mixed.

Our solid foods began with an appetizer of covered fries. We went off-menu (sort of) by ordering half cheddar fries, half chili fries. The cheddar fries were disappointing in that they were fries with melted cheddar cheese over them. Unfortunately, the fries we did not eat within the first minute of them hitting our table became cold and the cheese became a solid mass. My partner, who ordered extra ranch dressing ended up breaking the fries away from the cheese and dipping them into her ranch! Conversely, the chili fries were hot and delicious; they were meaty, beany and cheesy. The fries were just crispy enough to bear the weight of the chili topping and not overly salted, so the flavor of the toppings came out.

Both our meals came with side salads and they were very average. The lettuce was cold and crisp and very clean. In fact, the salads were so clean that they needed to be drained better. A few bites in we discovered our salads were swimming and we had to drain them ourselves! Still, the fresh vegetables were good and lent some nutrition to the meal that the rest of it did not necessarily have.

I ordered the philly cheesesteak and my partner ordered a burger (called the Single) which was loaded with stuff. My philly cheesesteak was arguably the best one anyone else has ever prepared for me. First, it was not greasy, so picking the sandwich up was not a disgusting tactile experience. Second, the meat was not overcooked and as a result, not dry and gross. Instead, each bite had tender beef and melted swiss and cheddar cheeses and bite by bite it was one of the best meat sandwiches I had ever had.

My partner's Single burger was pretty good, too. The burger came with onion rings, a barbecue sauce, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes on it and all of the components were good and it came together well. So, the burger, onion rings and bacon on it were all piping hot, the burger as medium rare as she requested it, and the vegetables were cool. Each bite offered up a different taste and she seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. I enjoyed the three bites I got (she got filled up!). All in all, it was exactly as we hoped it might be: decent diner food for about $20.


Johnny Rockets is affordable American diner food found frequently in a mall setting. It might not light the world on fire, but it can enhance a day out at the mall and it offers a classier alternative to most fast food dining!

For other restaurants, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Little Caesars Pizza
Ponderosa Steakhouse
Jreck Subs


For other restaurant or food reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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