Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

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Rocket To You

posted by in American, Restaurants

Johnny Rockets burger

Manila’s “flavor of the moment” and I’m surprised to find myself here so soon.

Eaters observe trends and follow avid foodies to the hot spots of the moment. It’s shameful, yes, to admit that one hasn’t tried Lusso’s foie gras burger for example? or been blissfully drowned in The Fireplace Grill’s chocolate soup? I haven’t – so shame on me?

The city’s “flavor of the moment” so to speak is month-old Johnny Rockets, the latest American establishment glorifying the halcyon days of the 1950s. Burgers and shakes so thick you have to slurp not sip, jukeboxes, and Diana Ross, you can’t ask for more. It’s rocking on a Saturday night and the waiting time is long but made bearable with baskets of cheese chips. There’s apparent unanimity when it comes to how Manila folk regard Johnny Rockets, the first in Asia. Comments are enthusiastically prefaced with: “We like the burgers and the shakes!” Followed by “… but it’s too expensive to go back more than once.” Comparisons with Chili’s are rife – who hasn’t fallen hard for their Peppercorn Burger after all?

The second our bums make contact with the seats at Johnny Rockets, a manager swoops down on us, hands Boo a pink balloon and kiddie activity sheet. “Hellooo!” He preens. Is this your first time here? The sodas are refillable and you can have all the french fries you want.” The words tumble out of his mouth. With a flourish, he turns around and struts away. The man is wired, no doubt.

sad cheese fries

I do my best not to judge restaurants and people, solely on first impressions; so unreliable are they (the impressions, not the people). To wit: the first arrival is the plate of cheese fries (P150) draped with four lazy, melting cheese slices. I’d laugh at the absurdity of it all but my mouth drops open involuntarily and stays open for a good five seconds. What, no fluorescent orange, processed cheese sauce? Or even Cheez Whiz? Pity the fries below bereft of their cheese coat!

But the burgers live up to reputation. The thickest patties I’ve seen yet in Manila, about an inch, they make the prospect of the double patty-burgers terrifying indeed. The restaurant acquiesces to Boo’s request to serve her Original burger (P285) sans the requisite garnishes. My Bin’s Bacon Cheddar Single (P395) oozes juice as does my Smokehouse Single (P395) with added cheddar (+P45); the latter has the expected and quite piquant barbeque flavor. Satisfying especially when chased with greedy fingerfuls of fries; I do love the fries here – starchy and crisp with a mushy inside, so obviously factory-made but so good too.

Johnny Rockets shakes

Because we’re going for the full-on Johnny Rockets experience, we all order a specialty drink. The rootbeer float (P165), tall and foamy, has that sarsaparilla tang from a quality rootbeer. My daughter and I share a fondness for milkshakes, so strawberry (P215) for her while I get the chocolate peanut butter (P265) with malt powder (P+40). Served with the excess shake in stainless tumblers of yore, it’s a cute touch, though some feel it’s pretentious: “The excess can fit in the glass!” goes the complaint. Image is everything, perhaps. As good as I expect a milkshake to be, the shake demands to be slurped not sipped. Almost painfully thick and requiring tremendous intakes of breath, the shake doesn’t melt or soften even after several minutes. Regular straws battle valiantly with the glop-like liquid, and while wider pearl drink straws may be more efficient, it’s incongruous with the diner feel. Well, after this shake, I don’t feel a need for dessert, that’s for sure.

smiley faces in ketchup

Johnny Rockets is a great addition to the landscape of the large American food chains, if places like that are your sort of thing. Obviously, one goes there for the “show”, i.e. plentiful food, the effort to squirt the ketchup into smiley faces (?!), servers so cheery it’s unnatural, and the opportunity to be immersed in a bubblegum reality for just a little while. My only worry is whether this establishment will be able to sustain its viability. Will it still be around once the avid foodies trumpet the crowds to the next “it” place? Will the burgers still be as thick a year from now? Will the servers still be grooving to Diana Ross’ “Last Dance”? And at these prices, wouldn’t it be fair to say that one deserves more than cheese singles on their cheese fries?

~~

Johnny Rockets
Ground Floor Veranda, Eastwood Mall
Eastwood City, Libis
470.2117

37 Responses to “Rocket To You”

  • Oh, good, it’s close by. Thanks for the info, Lori-san. I’ll probably check it out soon. :D

  • True. Super expensive!

  • seems that the food here’s kinda pricey.. i can find burgers (and fries) that tastes good or even better, at a cheaper price :)

  • I’ve tried this in the States before. Yum yum! Might go to Eastwood later to see if it’s still any good. :)

  • Your negativity and your partiality on this particular review simply turns me off! I’ve been to the place several times and I have been leaving the store the same way everytime…HAPPY and SATISFIED!

    Aina Luna Reply:

    Whoa! Well this is a first. Many true foodies and even food critics follow Lori’s blog and respect her opinions and believe her reviews to be authentic, impartial and detailed unlike one other blogger whose purpose is to make money and brown-nose (I will not name him here as this is not the proper forum).

    It all boils down to preference, taste, and a matter of opinion. Perhaps what makes you happy and satisfied does not make others feel the same way.

    Lastly, if you really read the entire entry, it’s not entirely negative and I think it’s unfair to say that Lori has been partial. Since Johnny Rockets is only about a month old, things remain to be seen.

  • hi lorie, hope you can drop by the hyatt sometime to try out that chocolate soup at the ffireplace hehe=)while your there i recommend the millionaire salad, its sooo good =)

    Yes, I’ve heard lots of good things about that Millionaire’s Salad. I’ll be sure to try it.

    –lori

    Aina Luna Reply:

    Yes, Lori! Hopefully we can all go there with Anson and Brian in tow. But then again, I can understand the temptation to finish the entire dessert by myself! Heehee.

    @ Laurie – now, I’m curious about the millionaire salad as well. I’ll keep that one in mind when I go there. Thanks!

  • I find the accusation of “negativity” to be a little strange. I was MUCH more unforgiving in my personal review of JR and I felt if anything Lori gave JR a ton of leeway and was very positive, giving props to the burgers while deftly sidestepping the question of whether OTHER cheaper burgers (eg Chili’s) could give just as much, if not more, value for the peso.

    The Cheese fries were definitely a joke. When my sister in law picked up one fry, the ENTIRE now-solidified cheese single went with it. For chrissake, Grating Che-Vital Quickmelt would have yielded a better product.

    If you’re feeling charitable, you can give the burgers and shake a pass, but I would honestly challenge you to tell me anyone would be “HAPPY AND SATISFIED!” with those Cheese Fries.

  • And just to add: “Negativity” does not equal “will not always give a glowing review to each and every single thing I cover”. I don’t even know what she meant by “Partiality”.

  • nyora, just because you “felt happy and satisfied” several times doesn’t follow that everyone else will feel the same way. every customer, or blogger, is entitled to his/her own opinion.

    ian, you’re right–“partiality” doesn’t make sense in her sentence. maybe she meant “bias” or “prejudice”?

  • I have read numbers of entries from this blog and from that i can say that this one is by far the most negative she has written about an establishment. Lori would clearly point out what’s bad and then on a lighter note states what’s to like. I mean I have been there and have seen people enjoy there as I had. This is my “go to” website if ever I want to try something new and in somehow take her word for it. A good example would be the virginity cake from sucree, if not for DCF I wouldn’t have known that it is one of the best cakes in Manila. If by then, i have read this review first, i wouldn’t have gone to the restaurant at all and experienced dining there.

    Don’t you find it negative that she finds a little effort to provide a friendlier and happier ambience unnatural and even labelling the crew “wired.” She then said that everything is a “show.” That’s a lot of branding/ name-calling in one entry don’t you think?

    And yes miss madaboutfood i do mean bias. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, you’re right but when you’re a source of information like this award winning blog, you ought to be more objective. You owe it to your readers/followers.

  • Nyora, I’m not sure you think “objective” means what it actually means. For Lori to have no personal bias, it would have to imply that she would be actively plugging something else at JR’s expense, which she most definitely was not.

    The was I read it, she was complementary about some things, she was critical about some other things. To not give a 100% glowing commendation in light of some very real flaws (Cheese Fries!!) is not being biased. It’s the very definition of objectivity.

    And lest you think Lori has an axe to grind against JR, she was being NICE. You wanna see some REAL negativity about JR, try googling some forums featuring many, many other food lovers and it isn’t pretty. It’s like Open Season on JR. Check it out for yourself if you like:

    http://www.philmug.ph/forum/showthread.php?t=50380&page=14

    and:

    http://tsikot.yehey.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1333951

    Would you call THESE comments biased?

    Ian Reply:

    – edited to add , that should read:

    For Lori to have **A** personal bias

    ^_^

  • To Ms. Joy Cruz- have you ever been there yourself and have your first hand experience for you to comment?

    Well if not, I’m guessing you will no longer go after reading this entry, since I feel that you strongly believe in its content.

  • no, i have not tried johnny rockets because i’m just a “housewife” and for practical reasons, i’m not willing to part with almost P400 for a burger. but i’m not one to be swayed by other people’s opinion because as i’ve said–and i’m paraphrasing–to each his own. and because i have my own set of standards. i just know how to dissent in a civilized manner.

  • Nyora, if you want to see people who are REALLY upset at JR, check out the foodie forums

    http://www.philmug.ph/forum/showthread.php?t=50380&page=13

    and

    http://tsikot.yehey.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1333951

    It’s practically open season on the place. By comparison, Lori has been nothing but respectful, constructive, and in my opinion, the epitome of objectivity.

    And for the record, I was the “some” Lori was referring to who criticized the the burgers in relation to Chili’s and the unnecessary milkshake metal containers strictly for effect. In my opinion, she has been VERY complementary about JR, especially compared to how I feel about the place.

  • I normally read reviews from the web before I try a new restaurant. Want to know what’s good to order and what to expect. I have been doing this for years and this site is included in my list.

    Fortunate for me I tried Johnny while I am at Eastwood with my friends. The long line made us curious about it and made us wait for about 30mins. Thanks for the dance we did not felt the wait.

    For me this is what I call total entertainment family restaurant. Ambience of 60s, friendly servers, cool oldies but goodies music, good airconditioning, good food and entertaining easy to follow dance number by the staff (one TV celebrity danced with the crew on my second visit)

    It’s a good thing that I came to realize that I should not trust the review in the internet when it comes to trying out something new. More often, the review is either self serving or done to protect personal interest probably done by a competitor to pull down competition or budget constrained customer or simply a customer with bad experience. . well, who doesn’t? Bad hair day comes once in a while no matter where you are. Workers are only human and so are we.

    The shake so far is the best shake I ever tried and I could not say anything bad about my bacon cheese burger. I always go back for the shake and i know that there are a lot of things that the people in Johnny Rockets are doing to improve their food and their services since they are newly opened and first resto here in the country.

    Reading through the thread, well it does not need an expert to explain the word “negativity”. Give the restaurant a chance girl. If you are a real writer you should know by now what negative and positive write up means. If you want to write something, you should be ready to accept any criticism from your readers otherwise you’re just a wannabe…

    “just because you “felt happy and satisfied” several times doesn’t follow that everyone else will feel the same way” and vice versa isn’t it? every customer, or blogger, is entitled to his/her own opinion. Yeah right tell me about it.

    ian, you’re right–”partiality” doesn’t make sense in her sentence. maybe she meant “bias” or “prejudice”? Haha are you aware that you just defined the word partiality? Check your dictionary girl! OMG…

    Pricey perhaps, but the ambience will justify it.

  • What! you have not tried JR and your making such a comment? Sometime you need to give your self a taste of reality than just relying on the internet.

    I think you’re in the middle of something you don’t even know. It is more civilized to paraphrase on something that you know. Internet is not even close from the realm of reality.

  • after reading this post, we checked out johnny rockets today because my husband (who’s american) has been giving the thumbs down on most milkshakes in town…you were right. the milkshakes are one of the best, if not the best, locally. so we were happy, if just for the milkshakes :)

    that said, we weren’t too happy with most everything else.

    – burgers weren’t exactly good value for money, even with the ambience – personally, if you’re going to spend over P400 for a burger, go for the foie gras burger at lusso’s in GB5 instead. but you’re right, these were pretty thick and pretty good, so it was worth to try it just once. would i go back for the burgers alone? probably not…there are other good burgers in town (chilli’s, sango, etc)
    – the onion rings were a joke, give me the ones at outback any day
    – for those who’ve been to johnny rockets in the states, the local version falls short on something…something feels missing. if i’m going to have cheery chipper happy waitstaff i’ll take the ones at itallianni’s, these guys seemed like they were on happy pills (yes, lori, i totally agree with your description of ‘wired’) yet not terribly efficient or knowledgeable. i asked what the st. louis special sauce was and the waitstaff’s reply was “um…it’s white. a special st. louis sauce” LOL that was very descriptive. oh and they had those coin dispensers on them for coins for the jukebox…but none had coins in them so they couldn’t readily provide change anyways (so much for the effect)
    – in the 1 hr we were there, they played “Last Dance” 4 (count that) four times! and 3 out of those 4 times, the waitstaff did a little choreographed jig that had my daughter staring at them anxiously…I SO wished it was really the last dance they would do…that song is still ringing in my ears!!!! i think that was more irritating than anything else.

    all in all, we spent almost P1800, and my daughter only had a milkshake and the fries..a bit much if it’s just for the ambience. next time i may go for just a milkshake, but then i’d probably have it to go…i really don’t want to hear “last dance” 4x within an hour again!

    oh, and this here’s just my personal experience off a single visit. i’m just saying :)

  • Whew, what is with this restaurant? I surf the net to check about the Johnny Rockets and why it is making a lot of buzz. My friends wanted me to check it out. Thay came all the way from Alabang and i think they enjoyed the experience. they say it is one of a kind restaurant.

    Anyways, I don’t know about you guys but I am still giving it a try tomorrow. Sardines taste good for some and caviar sucks to others, we are all different animals after all.

    I agree, we need to try it before we judge it. Reviews are subjective because it is based on personal opinion.
    I will post my opinion tomorrow. Wish me luck.

  • Looks like a demolition job.. Johnny Rockets watch out.

    Anyways, i will make my judgement tomorrow.

  • LOL i think perhaps one of the things that was not quite in sync with the 50’s diner theme was that they were playing songs from the 70’s (mostly) and the 80’s (i wondered about the stray cats playing in a 50’s diner). and not due to any choice of the customers. to be fair, it is nitpicking.

    but for a burger, fries and milkshake meal at roughly P800-900 per person, it’s the little details that count too. after all, eating is a multi-sensory experience (and i have to say this again, enough of ‘last dance’…what IS it with that song in that place?!) everyone i know who’s been there has been bombarded with that song.

  • How do their shakes compare to that of Filling Station in Burgos, Lori?

    Aina-
    JR’s shakes are 10x thicker and if you pay P40 extra for the malt, it’s a drink that’ll rocket you through the roof and over the moon! :p (heh, excuse the pun).

    –lori

  • I ate there last month out of curiosity since one of the architect of JR is a relative. I had their original burger with fries. I found it ridiculously expensive. As to the taste of the burger and the fries, I’d rather have a a quarter pounder meal from Mcdonald’s.It was such a let down since the previous day, I had Lusso’s foie gras burger which is almost the same price but a hundred times better.

    Engr Reply:

    I am not a fan of Johnny Rockets, actually I have not tried it, I am just surfing the net because I wanted to see the stores and shops that my friend made when i stumbled on this site. And to tell you frankly, there is only one architect and he is the same arch who made two other restaurants in Eastwood and happened to be an acquaintance of mine. what do u mean “one of the architect”

    Your post is a bogus. You belong to mcdo not in a fancy resto

    bon Reply:

    Your sweeping statement that my post is bogus reveals your bias. You are not in the position to allege that I belong to mcdo and not in a fancy restaurant. First, you haven’t tried JR. I challenge you to try it. See for yourself, rather, taste for yourself, the mediocre food that they serve. Unless you try it you do not have the right to criticize people who have done so. For then, you’re opinions will be baseless. Second, If you feel that I am a hoax, I can post my O.R. to prove to you that I tried their food. Third, perhaps it was your friend who designed JR. For all we know, my relative was lying to me. But that is beside the point. The issue at bar is whether or not JR serves good food. For me, it does not.

    Engr Reply:

    Your BOGUS when you started your post, now at the end of your 2nd post you’re telling me that your relative is a liar. tell that to the marines kid.

    I just think that all the post are done by one person only. What a show.

    BOGUS!

    Ian Reply:

    “BOGUS” is the new “FRESH MILK”.

  • I ate here once though the place reminded me so much of the diners in SFO (Mel’s) The price came pretty close to US prices!
    I was with my wife and daughter and was shocked to see the bill at P1600 for burgers fries and milk shakes!
    Personally I expected more from the burgers and if I were to compare this with the burgers of Chili’s, Chili’s will win hands down and I get more value for my money.

  • Francs comment hits the nail right on the head for me. The problem is that JR’s food is BAD per se; it isn’t. It’s quite all right. But nothing SPECTACULAR. And the fact that the prices are so high inevitably raises the diners expectations to a degree that its food cannot match.

  • do i really have to experience johnny rockets first before i could state my simple point? all i was saying was that each person has a different taste and is entitled to his own opinion, period. i did not say anything “negative” about the establishment itself. come on.

    for someone to say, “your negativity and your partiality on this particular review simply turns [sic] me off!” is quite uncalled for. it’s perfectly okay to disagree but there are ways to do it nicely. she could have at least begged to disagree about lori’s review by elaborating on what made her “happy and satisfied” about the food and the place.

    “partiality” and “bias” are often confused with each other and most people use them interchangeably. in the strictest sense, “partiality” is a state of being in favor of something (e.g., i’m partial to homemade ice cream — that means i’m extremely fond of it) as opposed to “bias” which is usually followed by the word “against” (e.g., fox news is biased against obama). so tell me, did lori’s entry show partiality toward another similar establishment?

    chochips Reply:

    As promised i will give my opinion after i tried the food at Johnny Rockets myself.
    Food is okay, for me the burger taste much better that what is written in the thread, objectively!
    In my opinion, most people who have not tried or experience something will always have something bad to say about it. Oppss!
    I observed the restaurant very well, very busy for a Monday, probably word of mouth since I have not seen any advertisement. My friend just told me to try this coz they know that I am a hamburger fan.

    The crews are very friendly. Well seems to be natural for my server. Have not seen any wire or battery or remote control. hehe
    Same music is played maybe because there are customers who punch the same music in the jukebox. I don’t see anything bad about it.
    They danced fame, staying alive and Respect (not sure of the title). My friend says that we (local) danced better than the one in Las Vegas. Well I think so, i search the youtube and found out that other branches of JohnnyRockets in US world also dance.
    The burger is a little higher than Chillis which also happened to be one of my favourite, about P50 difference, not bad at all. My score would be 9 for Johnny Rockets; 8 for chillis, Bic Mac 9 for the price
    They refilled my soda even before i asked for it, in fact they served me with a new glass instead of refilling the same glass. Thumbs up for the refill.
    They also offered to refill my fries, this is good if you want to take out half of your burger.
    The shake is 200% very good! Huge serving but it’s a guarantee that you will finish it. I really don’t understand the negative comments on this. This is the best so far!

    About the especial word being discussed in the thread! Partiality and Bias, if I may share my opinion, Who cares! they both have the same meaning and both gives negative meaning. This is supposed to be a food review NOT an English lesson for crying out loud! do this else where people, this is not the right place to satisfy personal ego.

    Ian Reply:

    “This is supposed to be a food review NOT an English lesson for crying out loud! ”

    But you DO concede for that a review to be effective it would HAVE to be coherent and use language correctly so as to be understood? How useful would a food review be if the writer could not effectively communicate what she was trying to say? For that matter, how effective can a COMMENT be if no one can understand what you are trying to say?

    Am sorry, the English Nazi in me had to pipe up for that last one.

  • You should try their hotdogs. For 150 php (I think), you’ll get a ‘very dry’ hotdog, a hotdog bun, and nothing else. no ketchup, no mayo, relish, etc. jolly hotdog is way, way better than what they serve here.

  • Johnny Rockets -> The New Caramel Apples. All we need now is some lunatic to start yelling ‘FRESH MILK!!!’ repeatedly in all caps ^_^

  • to chocochips / chochips (so which one is it? make up your mind!) – oh yes, some people do care about correct word usage–especially when accusations are hurled against somebody and such accusations (i.e., the “especial” words) do not fit at all in the foregoing review.

    you said so yourself: “Sardines taste good for some and caviar sucks to others, we are all different animals after all.

    I agree, we need to try it before we judge it. Reviews are subjective because it is [sic] based on personal opinion.”

    and then on your semblance of a review, you wrote, “…I really don’t understand the negative comments on this.” ahmmm…???

    for the last time, i never wrote any negative comment about johnny rockets precisely because i’ve never tried it. i would still have considered trying it in the future if not for its overzealous and unreasonable fans.

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