Two Palate Dining: Johnny Rockets

She Said: Johnny Rockets

I first went to a Johnny Rockets when I was in high school on a trip to New York City and Washington DC with my family. I thought it was really neat because the food was yummy, and I love all things that are 1950’s, so it was cute too. Okay, embarrassing confession time- I was also really excited to eat there because it was in one of my Clueless books. That’s right, it was mentioned in a Clueless novelization- oh, and Seventeen magazine, too! I didn’t really get out much then, plus I was a swoony teenager and you know how that makes everything either wretchedly horrible or tremendously exciting.  Johnny Rockets was and still is very cute; the real question was- is the food still good?

RJ and I love to go to the Signature Theatre, but we’ve had a hard time trying to find a place to dine when we see a show in Shirlington. Last month, when we went to see Dreamgirls we affirmed the need to find a place to dine before the show. We didn’t know that the night we were scheduled to attend the performance was also the night for a tree lighting ceremony! Thankfully, we had built in plenty of extra time and were able to deal with all the road closures. But, it was freezing and we had such a time deciding what to eat, even after checking out a couple of menus. When I saw the Johnny Rockets sign it seemed like an old friend. We elected to eat there and hoped it would be as charming as we remembered it.  It was a nice experience and the food was good, too.

The most disappointing thing about going to Johnny Rockets now is that is seems to be considered, at least by some, a kids restaurant? When did that happen? I realize that I just confessed to liking it in high school. But, I’ve never seen a restaurant, even a McDonald’s with as many small children and babies as this Johnny Rockets had in it that night. I don’t know if it’s because it’s the most kid-friendly option in Shirlington Village or because there were so many kids there for the tree lighting. It’s so much easier for me to find options to eat at American fare restaurants than it is in a trendy restaurant area where everything comes with my three biggest allergies- cranberries, cilantro and shellfish. Think about it how many trendy restaurants serve those items- on everything!

It was noisy, but it was also very clean. Our server was very fast and very capable. The décor is still darling. I love all the vintage signs. Like I said earlier, I love the 1950’s.  A restaurant with lots of chrome, booths and red accents always sounds like a good idea to me. I was disappointed that the jukebox didn’t work. I only put in enough for two songs, but it’s fun to play songs and I was sad that it didn’t ever play our songs!

I had the BBQ Chicken Bacon Melt. I enjoyed it. Now, I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed it more than quiche, kimchi or steak au poivre. But, for very casual, fast food/diner style food it was good. The chicken was tender and moist and accented nicely by their smoky BBQ sauce. Bacon always goes well with a sandwich! The cheese was melted and the bread wasn’t too scratchy. Un-melted cheese and bread that scratches the roof your mouth are two of my top sandwich peeves, so I’m always relieved to not have to deal with those problems. This sandwich also usually comes with fried onions, but I don’t eat onions, so I just pulled them off. I love onion for flavoring, but I don’t like the texture of it at all! The sweet potato fries were crispy and just a little too sweet. My dish was served with a little paper bowl with ketchup smiley. Have they always done that? I didn’t like it at all. It really just crowded the table, I try to skip condiments that a dish doesn’t necessitate whenever possible to save on the calorie intake. I’ll remember and ask them to skip the ketchup dish next time!

RJ had a Smoke House Double (without the Ranch sauce, so I would be willing to still be near him- I hate ranch) and it was fine. I’m not the biggest burger fan in the world, but it was tender and tasty. The regular fries he ordered weren’t very impressive.

Johnny Rockets was a good experience (no one got sick! – that can’t always be said of restaurant dining) with good food. I don’t know if we would go out of our way to eat at a Johnny Rockets, but I’m sure that we’ll make another visit to the Shirlington location again.

Kari’s Ratings

BBQ Chicken Bacon Melt- 8

Sweet Potato Fries- 6

Smoke House Double- 7

Regular Fries- 5

Overall- 7

Johnny Rockets BBQ Chicken Bacon Melt- isn't the Ketchup smile weird?

Johnny Rockets BBQ Chicken Bacon Melt- isn’t the Ketchup smile weird?

Johnny Rockets BBQ Chicken Bacon Melt and Sweet Potato Fries

Johnny Rockets BBQ Chicken Bacon Melt and Sweet Potato Fries

Johnny Rockets Smoke House Double Burger with Fries

Johnny Rockets Smoke House Double Burger with Fries

He Said:Johnny Rockets

When we saw Dreamgirls at the Signature Theatre, we were in need of somewhere to eat dinner.  Lo and behold there was a Johnny Rockets right near by.  We both remembered Johnny Rockets fondly from our college days, but would it hold up?

Kari ordered the BBQ Chicken Bacon Melt.  She got the sweet potato fries instead of the regular fries.  Her sandwich consisted of grilled chicken, cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, onion rings and barbeque sauce on sour dough bread.  The taste I had was good.  The flavors were there, but not overly assertive.  The flavors also weren’t very adventurous either.  The sweet potato fries were limp and mealy, and I didn’t like them at all.

My meal at Johnny Rockets consisted of a Smoke House Double and a side of French fries.  The Smoke House Double has two third of a pound beef patties topped with bacon, onion rings, cheddar cheese and instead of the barbeque sauce on Kari’s sandwich, this one is served with a barbeque ranch sauce.  I opted not to have the ranch sauce since I don’t like ranch dressing.  The result was also serviceable.  What I was really looking forward to here was the bacon, and it wasn’t extraordinary.  The onion ring tasted fine, but the onion pulled out of its breading very easily which isn’t a good thing.  The fries were very good, but there weren’t very many of them.  I’m glad I ordered the double otherwise I probably wouldn’t have been satisfied.

There’s nothing transcendent about Johnny Rockets, but if you’re in need for a quick burger a little better than a McDonalds, that won’t hurt your stomach, they’re a fine stop.

RJ’s Ratings-

BBQ Chicken Melt-7

Sweet Potato Fries-0

Smoke House Double-5