I have lived on the Upper East Side for about 10 years now, about 3 years ago there was an amazing Mexican restaurant across the street that served home cooked style South of the border cuisine. After it closed this location was many things, none of them successful. I dreamed they would open a KFC, Popeye’s or some other devilishly bad fast food place, what came calling finally last week was Johnny Rockets. The all American Hamburger Diner began it’s life in Los Angeles on trendy Melrose Avenue in 1986, one of it’s locations was actually the first restaurant/ dining experience that I tried in America after arriving from Australia 17 years ago. Although that particular Johnny Rockets location back then was great, many since then have failed in comparison; that is until today.
I walked in and was met by attractive young servers gyrating their hips to the “Twist” I thought to myself are they doing this because they have to, or are they that into music that was around 30 years before they were born? Nevertheless it made for a festive atmosphere no matter what the cause. I sat with the owner/manager Jason Olivero who told me his story of dedication and hard work that brought him and his partner to this location, just a stones throw from my humble abode. No stranger to fast food, Jason had spent 17 years working for Mc Donald’s before deciding to open a Johnny Rockets. After a corporate interview and passing the necessary screening his dream was realized in the form of a two story 50’s style Americana decor burger joint.
I sat in a booth and admired the timeless tunes on the old style table-top juke box, after some careful consideration I ordered the #12 burger a simple creation with cheddar cheese, fresh lettuce, onion slice, a crisp dill pickle, mayo and a red tangy sauce. The burger arrived with some less than crispy French fries and was wrapped all snug in the signature Johnny Rockets waxed paper. My first bite was a fresh like taste explosion, I asked myself “is it possible this kind of ordinary looking burger could deliver such a powerful flavor punch”? The answer was definitely proven in the short time it took me to inhale this newly local addiction.
Although hunger satisfied, I became anxiously inquisitive about the other flavors they had to offer, Jason promptly suggested the Smoke House Single, which was served with crispy onion rings, cheddar cheese, thick sliced fried bacon and Johnny Rockets Smokey barbecue-ranch sauce. I paused and looked at the beauty of this sandwich, and slowly proceeded to devour it bite by bite not resting until it was all gone. I loved it; the flavor was spot on and was a welcome change from the bistro style, chic burgers that I had gotten use to lately. It was so wonderful to get a greasy down and dirty, full flavorful, no frills burger!!!
With its friendly, dancing, immaculately dressed staff and variety packed, delicious menu; Johnny Rockets@62nd and 1st Avenue is a must visit. Pure bliss!
The Lounge (62nd & First Ave)
1134 First Avenue
New York, NY 10065