The shtick Old-school diner, new-school chef-ing.
The vibe For years, a different Johnny’s Grill occupied this same prime Logan Square storefront: a straight-up, no-frills diner with vinyl stools and lots of regulars. The vinyl stools remain, but everything else is different now that the space (as well as a former flower shop next door) has been commandeered by Sarah Jordan, last seen at the late Italian restaurant Cicchetti (one of the best new restaurants in 2014). The main dining area looks the same, and there’s now extra seating in the new bar and outdoor picnic tables. Most weekends, a panoply of hip twenty- and thirty-somethings packs the seats, though the noise level never rises above an acceptable morning-time volume. A fine, if unremarkable, space. 7 out of 10
The food Jordan’s résumé also includes stints in the pastry programs at Boka and GT Fish & Oyster, and the deceptively simple menu is executed with the kind of finesse you’d expect from those classier kitchens. The thick, creamy oatmeal ($6) gets dappled with spiced peach slivers and great crunchy granola, making it both the heartiest and most texturally interesting bowl of oats out there. Unsurprisingly given Jordan’s pastry background, the crust on the breakfast pie ($9) is divine, sturdy enough to support the vegetable-and-cheese-stuffed interior while remaining buttery and delicate. And the bright, balanced avocado toast ($4), a near-cliché on any brunch menu with aspirations of trendiness, crunches with roasted carrots, radishes, and almonds on multigrain bread. If only every diner could have an award-winning chef manning the grill. 9 out of 10
The drinks You’ll find solid drink options, but the menu’s shot-and-a-beer focus is better suited for nighttime than the break of day. Sure, you could opt to pair a can of PBR with your toast, but you should instead spend your liquid calories on a chocolate malt ($6). It’s appropriately full-bodied and flavorful, and sipping one while perched on a stool feels like a total time warp. 8 out of 10
The service It doesn’t matter how good the food is if it takes ages to arrive, as has been the case on multiple visits. A single order of oatmeal and coffee took nearly 20 minutes to show up on one not-super-packed morning, while on another occasion, not one meal was delivered as ordered—a plate of bacon forgotten here, eggs fried instead of scrambled there—stretching what should have been an in-and-out brunch to nearly two hours. The server kept promising she’d come back to take orders, or refill a coffee, or finally drop off that missing bacon. She forgot every time. 4 out of 10
OveralL Johnny’s would be a dream—if only the service would wake up. 7 out of 10