A few months ago, I was in New York and friends there were telling me to visit Johnny Rockets for their shakes. They said their shakes would automatically fall under my "must-bring-home" list. Because I had a gazillion restaurant recommendations thrown at me by eager friends/tour guides, I had forgotten about it--until I was in JFK airport scouring the food court for a sugar high before my flight. So, okay, I thought, maybe next time I’m in the U.S.
Little did I know that that milkshake and I would cross paths sooner than I expected. Fast forward to my jet-lagged self walking at the Eastwood Mall with Bea and Trix, and then entering the doors of the first Johnny Rockets franchise in Asia—I guess that milkshake and I—we were meant to be.
The diner’s interiors are reminiscent of a 1940s ice cream parlor, like the Chok'lit Shoppe owned by Pop Tate in the Archie comics, where the Archie gang would always hang out. Johnny Rockets also has the works: a functional jukebox, the dancing wait staff who displayed pretty good choreography (they dance every 15-30 minutes, just wait) and a soda fountain. The place capitalized on nostalgia pretty well.
I immediately ordered my milkshake, which Johnny Rockets placed under “Deluxe Shakes & Malts” on their menu. I got the Choco Banana (P265) flavor, Bea decided to have Strawberry (P265), while Trix got Oreo Cookies & Cream (P265). They came in thick, tall glasses with bendable plastic straws.
I was pleased when they also served the extra in stainless steel tumblers. My choco banana also came with a tall spoon. The reason? To get those banana chunks at the bottom of the glass. It’s froth heaven with my shake, the blend isn’t too sweet nor is it watery. It had the right amount of fluff and the smoothness of blended ice cream. Those New Yorkers were right--Johnny Rockets knows how to make a mean shake. After all, these shakes are made with hand-dipped premium vanilla ice cream and the malts are blended with real powdered malt.
For starters, and since I got over my curiosity with the milkshakes, we were ready to munch on appetizers. We got the usual diner fix-ins: Chili Fries (P265) and Onion Rings (P185). The fries were topped with cheese melt and chopped onions. I like anything spicy and cheesy on my potatoes, especially if the potatoes are of medium-sized cuts like these ones—just right to pop in my mouth one after another.
As for the Onion Rings, they had thick slices covered in light batter. If I had been an onion rings fan, I would’ve said these particular ones were good, just because they aren’t smothered with oil and breading. On second thought, given those two considerations, I think I can be an onion ring convert with Johnny Rockets.
Because we’re in a diner, I asked the same question Jughead would certainly ask: What’s a good milkshake without a burger? Naturally, I zeroed in on the tastiest-sounding sandwiches in the menu to share with my dinner dates and got the Route 66 (P335) and the #12 (P335), which I requested to be served in four parts.
The Route 66 has Swiss cheese, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions and mayonnaise to accompany a 1/3 pound ground beef patty. The meat is fresh, not fatty and seasoned well enough. The buns could use a little more heft, as it was rather too airy and thin for the flavorful ingredients of the burger. I like it immediately, being a sucker for anything with cheese and mushrooms. The Route 66 stuffs the tummy easily enough, especially when paired with Johnny Rockets’ creamy milkshakes. For its rather expensive price tag, this burger is worth it once in a while.
The #12 had a curious-sounding name, only to be explained with corny copywriting: “On a scale of one to ten, it’s a twelve!” Har. I give all burgers a chance, though, so I devoured a quarter of the #12. I tasted cheddar cheese, fresh lettuce, onions, pickles, mayonnaise & Johnny Rockets’ tangy “red red sauce®.” To me, the sauce tasted a bit like watered down ketchup, hot sauce and a sprig of barbecue sauce. It’s not so bad, but I also didn’t get why it’s worthy of a registered trademark symbol. The patty is fresh, never frozen. I can see and taste that it’s pure ground beef and just fresh off the grill. The #12 has all the makings of an awesome burger, but oddly, it didn’t haunt me in my dreams, unlike the other fantastic burgers I’ve tried. Honestly, I’d rate the Route 66 twelve instead of the #12. On the brighter side, all Johhny Rockets burgers are served with American fries or a side salad, which ought to keep you full even if you don’t order anything else.
Aside from burgers and shakes, this retro diner also serves something kinder to our thighs. They have three kinds of salads: the Grilled Chicken Club Salad (P395), Garden Salad and the Crispy Chicken Club Salad. Because I’m a fan of all things grilled and all things chicken, I got the first one. I was given four kinds of dressings to choose from: Italian dressing, ranch, balsamic vinegar and honey mustard.
Grilled Chicken Club Salad
I paired my salad with honey mustard, as recommended by Johnny Rockets’ store manager. He made a good recommendation because I love the sweet sour blend of honey mustard as it combined with the grilled chicken breast, chopped bacon, ripe tomatoes, and cheddar cheese served on crisp romaine and iceberg lettuce.
Not contented with my chicken salad, I had to taste the Chicken Tenders (P345) after seeing its description in the menu. “Tender strips of chicken breast, lightly breaded and fried to a golden brown.” “Tender” and “chicken” were all I needed to hear. I put a dollop of white ranch dressing on the battered poultry and savor the delicate sweetness of the meat blending with the light sour taste of the sauce. This is exactly the kind of stuff that made me an omnivore again.
If you can stuff yourself silly with meat and cholesterol in Johnny Rockets, you can also drink yourself to the full. Like how all diners should be, Johnny Rockets allows you to refill your drinks from their soda fountain for only P100. You can even switch from soda to soda, without an extra charge. After you get bored with that, why not add flavor shots to your soda and transform it into a different drink altogether? I got a Sprite and requested for a shot of cherry flavoring to mix with it. Ah, a great cocktail in the making.
Flavor Shots – Bottomless Sprite (P100) with cherry flavor (P75)
Because Johnny Rockets is not only a diner, but also an ice cream parlor, I saved room for dessert. My friends got the Super Sundae (P225), just because it sounded evil. Two scoops of premium vanilla ice cream with your choice of sauce, and then sprinkled with almonds and whipped cream. Yes, it could give you a heart attack after all those burgers but heck, you can never go wrong with a classic sundae in a diner.
The Perfect Brownie Sundae (P285) sounded like the best way to cap a gluttonous meal, so I got that. I knew I made the right decision when the dessert graced our table—there it was, a slab of moist brownie nestled on a plate, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, a little mountain of whipped cream sitting in stark contrast to the brown hot fudge drizzled all over this perfect mess. The brownie—chewy, chocolate-y and freshly baked—is the star of the dessert. Indeed, it was the perfect brownie sundae and it haunts me to this day.
Johnny Rockets is my place for classic diner desserts and when I’m in the mood for some rollin’ and rockin’ tunes out of the good old jukebox. My boyfriend already looks like Jughead. Now, if only I have a vintage Corvette.