Johnny's Grill

Restaurants, American Logan Square
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The Logan Square diner gets new a life—and superlative fish and chips

Johnny’s Grill was a fixture at Logan and Kedzie for decades before the landlord didn’t renew the lease in May 2014 and the diner closed abruptly. In August, chef Sarah Jordan (Cicchetti, Boka) stepped in with a refined take on diner fare and a new bar in the old flower shop next door. 

Chef-led diners have been surging lately, with restaurants like Dove’s Luncheonette, Au Cheval and Little Goat Diner offering upscale diner-inspired food and drinks in polished spaces. Thanks to actually being in an old diner, Johnny’s feels more authentic. The food, while pricier than the original Johnny’s, tops out at $12, so it’s less expensive than other diner-inspired spots. Aside from a gazpacho and a section of toasts, the menu is more focused on traditional diner foods, like a burger and meatloaf. But how you feel about Johnny’s will come down to whether you frequented the original spot—if you want a super cheap meal without a scene, you’re going to miss that low-key option on the Square. But if you didn’t, you’ll find some things to like at Johnny’s, along with some things that aren’t quite polished yet, like service, which was slow and forgetful over my two visits.

The menu offers all-day breakfast, including a cured-salmon benedict with bright hollandaise and a solid Irish breakfast, with meats from Spencer’s Jolly Posh sharing a plate with a pair of sunny eggs, toast and grilled mushrooms and tomatoes. For lunch and dinner, the double cheeseburger is layered with melted sharp cheddar, pickles and Dijonnaise, but the fish and chips are the clear standout, with a crisp golden batter that adheres perfectly to the flaky fish (an attribute that my fish fry-loving Wisconsinite coworker laments is hard to find in Chicago). Jordan spent a lot of time as a pastry chef but desserts are oddly a letdown—the ice cream is icy instead of creamy, the doughnut is dry and the chocolate pie is overwhelmed with chocolate ice cream instead of the promised vanilla. But you can end the meal on a high note with the charming Pop Tart, filled with blueberry, frosted and dotted with rainbow sprinkles—it’s worth getting no matter which meal you’re having.

Vitals

Atmosphere: It’s lively all the time, with people eating on the diner side and drinking—and having Friday night dance parties—in the colorful bar.

What to eat: Irish breakfast, fish and chips, Pop Tart.

What to drink: Going the breakfast route? Try the spicy Bloody Maria with an Old Bay rim. The gin and tonic is also a good pick—it’s well balanced and bright with lime. The list of beers by the can and bottle is solid (including a couple $3 cans), while the draft list consists of nearly every Moody Tongue beer. 

Where to sit: I’ll always grab a diner stool that places me squarely in the mad rush to slap burgers on the grill, but there’s also patio seating on the busy Square and seats in the bar. 

By: Amy Cavanaugh

Posted:

Venue name: Johnny's Grill
Contact:
Address: 2545 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago
60647
Opening hours: Daily 10am-2am
Transport: El stop: Blue to Logan Square. Bus: 56.
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LiveReviews|6
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Johnny's is a funky little spot that puts out great dishes. I've only been there for brunch, but loved the Irish breakfast-- who knew a pile of mushrooms could taste so good?

tastemaker

Johnny’s is almost an anomaly in my book. It’s housed in an old-school diner in Logan Square – right on the square in fact. Every detail – from the inside and out – appear just how you would imagine an OG diner to be: A nondescript black and white sign hanging outside; tall retro bar stools studded along the counters; an open kitchen with large griddles. Like most diners, the air smells like grease, which makes you hungry before you even sit down. And like most diners, Johnny’s serves breakfast all day. Which, who could be mad about that?


What differentiates Johnny’s from the rest of your neighborhood staples, is its chef who puts a more polished tweak on the standard diner menu. Chef Sarah Jordan, formerly of BOKA, cranks out your beloved classics like the breakfast sandwich or the “2x2”: Two eggs any style with a choice of two sides like bacon or pancakes. However, Chef Jordan’s true standouts are her specialty toasts and homemade baked goods.


One of my favorites was the ever-popular avocado toast, which Chef Jordan puts her own spin on by adding radish, almond and carrots. Craving something sweeter? Try the Nutella toast with sea salt, banana and raw hazelnuts for texture. Let’s be real, no one hates on Nutella.


But whatever you do, do not leave without ordering the Pop-tart. The flavors vary depending on when you’re there, but we were lucky enough to try out the apple-cinnamon Pop-tart. The crust was perfectly flaky and the contents were just the right amount of sweet.

Tastemaker

I am not positive what all of the fuss is about, but this place is pretty mediocre in my opinion.  


I had the famous fish and chips which tasted okay, but the portion was pretty skimpy. There were two small pieces of fish which turned out to be mostly batter, so that was pretty disappointing. I also got one of their toasts which was a little disappointing as well. I am aware that the menu name was "butter" toast, but there was just way too much butter on it, and it wasn't spread around. So, every bite was a mouthful of butter. Great idea for all their toasts, but maybe do smaller dollops of butter or spread it around a bit. The server also got a little testy when I mentioned how I didn't care for it. Basically reiterating that the butter is the point of that toast, and seemed a bit annoyed that I wasn't too fond of having mouthfuls of butter.


Another great idea is their Pop Tart. The picture here looks cool, but when I ordered it, it came out not warm, and a little tough to eat as if it had been made a while back. Perhaps it was an old one, but nonetheless it was disappointing.

moderatorStaff Writer

I've been here twice and had two very different experiences. The first time I had the burger and LOVED it and the next time I went the burger wasn't cooked at all and the service was really slow. I'm confident that a third visit would be delicious so I'll be back.

moderator

The new Johnny's Grill in Logan Square is a great spot for a quick burger or drinks with friends in the evening. If you're just visiting, it's also an easy spot to reach, as it's just off the blue line Logan Square stop. Sit by the window and people-watch!