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Restaurant Sat Dec 19 2015

Dinner at the New Johnny's Grill

johhnys02.jpgAh, the ubiquitous diner-- where one goes to meet friends, cure hangovers, and linger over endless cups of coffee. To me, the perfect diner provides a rallying point for its community. Johnny's Grill, the Logan Square mainstay, has always served up diner standards while offering the perfect position to people-watch across the square. When the original Johnny's Grill closed in summer of 2014, the iconic spot remained empty for a little over a year-- until August 2015, when it opened its doors again and the old-school Johnny's Grill signage remained untouched.

In fact, most of the interior is very recognizable-- counter seating, vinyl bar stools, laminated menus-- just brighter, updated. Chef Sarah Jordan, mostly recognized for her previous work as a pastry chef, now has her hands in all aspects of the restaurant and seems to know what the people want. The breakfast menu features tried-and-true standbys such as "Johnny cakes" and a full Irish breakfast (Jordan herself is originally from Dublin). However, when I visited recently, it was for dinner.

johhnys01.jpgAlong with updating the original Johnny's Grill space, Jordan also expanded into a defunct florist next door, creating the Flower Shop Bar-- a complete one-eighty from the old-school diner vibe. The Flower Shop is dim and quirky, with vibrant teal walls and light fixtures that seem to float above the bar. Drinks include cocktail classics, along with budget-friendly boilerplates and Moody Tongue beers on tap. Dinner options (also available at lunchtime) are varied and surprising: there's your double cheeseburger, yes, but also Irish Bacon Bap sandwich (thick-cut bacon, Swiss cheese, and giardineira) and, on my recent visit, a pleasantly spicy tofu Bahn Mi on a soft roll. Specials are ever-changing, and my friend and I polished off a bowl of fragrant red lentil dal. Definitely not a diner standby, but there was no complaining. On a past visit I also tried the fish and chips-- one of my personal go-to's-- and found it crispy but tender in all the right ways, and an appropriate diner portion (i.e.: large).

Yes, it may take some time for some to completely come around to the idea of a "new" Johnny's-- there are significant changes at this new iteration, but at its heart, it maintains that greasy-spoon vibe (just with less actual grease). Most importantly, it serves up lovingly-made food with a dash of personality-- and that classic people-watching perch.

Johnny's Grill is located at 2545 N Kedzie Blvd.

 
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Conrad / December 23, 2015 9:32 AM

Danielle, the defunct florist, Fleur, moved up the street to 2651 N Milwaukee. Nice to hear about Johnny's; sounds like it's worth a trip back to the old hood.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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