From the Kitchen

Johnny Rockets serves same classic diner food despite internal makeover

Kelli Mosher | Staff Photographer

Johnny Rockets moved to a new location on the 2nd floor of the Lord and Taylor wing in Destiny USA.

UPDATED: May 2, 2016 at 10:10 p.m.

Johnny Rockets has been a classic burger chain for years, with its retro feel and all-American comfort food appealing to customers of all ages. But now, with the modern craze for healthy fast food, Johnny Rockets is carrying out a brand refresh starting with its restaurant in Destiny USA. But at its core, Johnny Rockets is still the same joint Americans have come to love.

Most of the changes to the Destiny USA Johnny Rockets have been surface-level. The restaurant now has an industrial modern feel, with exposed brick placed against honey-colored bamboo high top tables. Customers can now order takeout on an iPad placed right by the door. The inside is clean and chic, but the classic diner counter and the signature Johnny Rockets ’50s to ’80s hits playlist still remains my favorite part. After all, it wouldn’t really be a trip to Johnny Rockets if “Any Way You Want It” by Journey wasn’t playing.

The waitress told me that the specials menu for the day featured Bacon Cheese Tater Tots, and there was no way to say no to such a fantastic combination. I also tried the Route 66 burger with mushrooms, white cheddar and caramelized onions, fries, sweet potato fries and finished off with a milkshake.

Kelli Mosher | Staff Photographer

Kelli Mosher | Staff Photographer

The tots were my favorite item. Served as an appetizer, they were covered in shredded cheddar, crispy bacon, chopped scallions and a hint of queso. I was in cholesterol heaven. I would have liked to have more of the queso flavor or have the cheddar be meltier than it was, but that’s really my only complaint. The best part is this fantastic combination is easy to make at home, even for those who are challenged in the kitchen.

The burger came out of the kitchen soon after the tots. The patty itself was thin, which is typical for Johnny Rockets and general fast food style. The mushrooms were pleasantly browned and, coupled with the caramelized onions, they added a subtly sweet flavor to the end of the savory bite of beef, cheese and potato bread bun. All together, the combination was interesting and a welcomed change from a typical burger. I have eaten burgers like the Route 66  and I thought it was well-executed, but nevertheless, I do feel that something was missing from the chord of flavors.

Although the Route 66 burger traditionally comes with mayonnaise, I ate it with salt and pepper. It was a little dry, so perhaps some A.1 Steak Sauce or ranch dressing would have helped it go down easier. The additional sauce would have added a tangy flavor that would complete the overall taste.

The fries were perfectly crisp but the slightest bit too oily for my taste, though that’s a personal preference other customers may not be bothered by. The sweet potato fries, however, were really good. They had a subtle crunch, but not enough to overpower the sweet softness of the yam.

Of course, to finish off the meal, I had a traditional chocolate milkshake. There were plenty of options on the shake menu, including chocolate peanut butter, strawberry banana and plenty of candy varieties, like Butterfinger and M&M. They even had a chocolate Oreo shake.

The Johnny Rockets near my home offers my favorite shake, a Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Shake. It tastes exactly like the regular chocolate shake, only the flavor is more intense. I was slightly disappointed to see that they didn’t serve it at the Destiny USA location. Either way, the regular chocolate shake hit the spot after the meal. It was thick, creamy and packed a powerful chocolate flavor.

Best of all, Johnny Rockets as a brand is quite affordable. Most burgers checked in at around $7, the fries are unlimited and come with the meal, and the shakes are not expensive either. Johnny Rockets is a great option to eat a decent, quality meal after shopping at Destiny, without ruining the delicate collegiate financial situation.

In the end, although Johnny Rockets is implementing a brand refresh, underneath the shiny white tiling and hipster warehouse-style lighting I still see the same restaurant. Johnny Rockets will always be classic American to the core, serving burgers, fries and shakes with a side of oldies hits that have gone well past their prime, in a good way.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, the changes made to Johnny Rockets located in Destiny USA were misstated. The restaurant is not restructuring to Johnny’s Burger Factory, but has undergone a brand refresh with a new look, design and logo. The Daily Orange regrets this error.

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