Johnny Rockets—‘The Original Burger’—is an international diner chain that’s been around for 27 years and has over 300 outlets in the US and internationally. I was only aware, in a vague sort of way, of the chain’s name; I’d never eaten at any of their restaurants, so when I saw a ‘Coming Soon: Johnny Rockets’ sign up on the second floor of Select CityWalk, I wasn’t terribly excited. I didn’t even turn cartwheels and thank the powers that be when my husband told me that Johnny Rockets was pretty big, and that they were renowned for their burgers and shakes.
I only began to get excited when Johnny Rockets finally opened in the last week of January, and reviews began to appear on Facebook. Very mixed reviews, I may add. Mixed enough for me to decide I should probably go and check the place out for myself.
Johnny Rockets overlooks the central atrium of the mall. The restaurant is separated from the public space outside by a low wall, so people passing by can check out the place without having to come in or even peer through glass. Inside, it’s pretty typical diner-style décor: black-and-white tiled floor, dark faux leather sofas and chairs, white-topped tables with chrome trim, and the circular red, yellow and blue logo of Johnny Rockets on the wall next to the entrance.
We arrived at about 2 PM, and found all the tables occupied. The staff member who greeted us, however, pointed out that there were two vacant bar stools at the counter that faces the kitchen: would we like to sit there? We were hungry, so we agreed. It wasn’t as comfortable as sitting at a table might have been, but it wasn’t bad either. All that we needed—drinking straws, ketchup, salt and pepper, sugar and sweetener—were right at hand, in front of us.
We’d been handed over food menus at the entrance; the shakes menus were at the counter. We’d barely sat down when our server, an efficient and charming young lady named Shang, came along and introduced herself. At our request, she left us to peruse the menus, and go through the lists of starters, burgers, sandwiches, shakes, desserts and more. After toying with the idea of having a starter, burger and dessert, we figured (a) that we wouldn’t be able to fit all of those in; and (b) none of the desserts sounded the mustn’t-miss type. We settled, therefore, for a burger and a shake each.
There were more intricacies to ordering these, as we realised when Shang was summoned. Would we like a single or a double burger? Vegetarian or non-vegetarian? (well, that we’d already figured out, along with the single/double bit) Chicken or tenderloin? (Tenderloin, we said—I was having a smokehouse single, my husband a bacon cheddar single) Potato bun or wholewheat? (Wholewheat) Fries or green salad? (Green salad) With Italian dressing or lemon-garlic? (Lemon garlic for us both)
With the shakes—I opted for a mocha fudge, my husband for a coffee—there was only one question: would we like them malted? Yes, please.
Shang bustled off after repeating our order and telling us that she’d get our shakes soon, the burgers as soon as they were done. She was back within a couple of minutes, bringing us paper napkins (why don’t they place napkin holders on the counter? It would be easier), cutlery, and a little bowl of lemon garlic dressing each.
The shakes, served up shortly after, each came in a tall glass nestling in a steel holder. On the side Shang gave us each a steel shaker with the remaining lot of shake. Both shakes were gloriously thick, cold (but not brain-freeze-cold), and delicious (though my husband did think my mocha fudge shake tasted better than his coffee one).
Within about ten minutes, while we had our shakes and looked around the restaurant, Shang brought our burgers, each wrapped in paper and sitting on a plate alongside a bowl of shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and grated cheese (Johnny Rockets might do well to let patrons know in advance that the salads have cheese in them; I know people who’re very allergic to cheese). We poured the dressing over our salads, mixed it all up, and got down to eating.
My smokehouse single consisted of a well-cooked, flavourful patty of tenderloin (buffalo meat—known in Delhi as ‘buff’), with strips of crisp bacon, topped with a barbecue-ranch sauce, a slice of melted cheese, and a few onion rings covered in sourdough batter and deep-fried.
The burger bun, thankfully, wasn’t falling apart, yet was soft and pliable. The bacon was sufficient (I do not take kindly to sparse bacon!), the sauce was good without being overpowering. The only thing I’d have changed was the onion rings. I adore onion rings, but when they’re soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside. These, sandwiched between a patty fresh off the grill and a warm bun, had gone limp and soft and contributed nothing distinguishable in the way of taste or texture.
My husband’s burger was delicious, too, and crowded with bacon, cheddar, tomato slices, lettuce, and raw onion.
While the burgers were both good, the salads were a bit of a let-down. The lettuce and tomato were crisp and fresh, but the cheese was too little, too lacking in character, and just unnecessary. The dressing wasn’t garlicky enough to be recognisable as such, and the dressing, despite being mixed into the salad, soon sank to the bottom (it was rather gloopy and heavy to start with).
We paid Rs 1,740 for our meal, inclusive of all taxes and service charges. Expensive, yes, and it’s not as if our meal was without any flaws. Still, for the ambience (very friendly and cheery, down to the wait staff who break into a dance when a good song starts playing), for the super shakes, and for the really-not-bad burgers, I just might go back here.
Select CityWalk Mall
Tel: 011-41606666, 011-42147777