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Big Johnson's

Posted by Staff / Listed on July 30, 2012 / review policy

Big Johnsons TorontoBig Johnson's has replaced the long-standing Village Rainbow Cafe in the heart of the Church-Wellesley Village. The patio remains but the kitchen is now serving up sandwiches, burgers and pub grub made from local and seasonal ingredients.



Mel / August 11, 2012 at 08:15 am
This place was ridiculous.
The menu sounds appealing, boasting more modern pub options like naan bread pizzas and sliders etc. But unfortunately it would seem the chef must have had these at tasty restaurants but was unable to replicate the tasty flavors at big johnsons.
The food took over an hour to come out, I'm really not exaggerating it may hav been even longer. The server seemed nice enough but also didn't seem to think that food taking an hour was out of the norm. Finally the food arrived. I almost cried. We waited 1 hour for tepid mediocre food. The sliders were nothing but bread and no filling, the pulled pork pizza was cold and limp, the wing were okay. Then who must have been he manager came over and asked how our meal was. We said the food was okay but took a long time. He seemed to take this as a glowing review, and walked away leaving all of our dirt dishes still sittin on our table while he walked to he other side of the patio for a cigerette. Will I go back? Nope.
le Charlez / August 12, 2012 at 03:21 pm
I agree with the Mel. I wanted some breakfast after my usual killer Bikram yoga class on Sunday morning, and saw the empty patio on Church St. Not a problem getting a table, as it turns out, because they have NO BRUNCH MENU! Wow! Since I was still calm and mellow from yoga, I was a good sport and gave the place a try - besides, I felt sorry for the waiter who seemed like a nice person (and kinda cute!) I order orange juice, and a got a big glass of commercial, bottled orange juice with lots of ice and a straw. And yeah, it did seem to take an inordinate amount of time to arrive. I chose chicken quesidillas, because I wasn't in a burger mood. They too took a long time to appear and weren't worth the wait. Bland and typical. Tomato salsa from a jar, and some really weird guacamole which I'm pleased to report didn't poison me - because it had an odd brownish colour and acidy taste. "I will survive!" O - here's something nice: the aforesaid icky orange juice was a bottomless glass, so I had seconds. With tax, my snack cost around 16.50. When I pulled out my interac to pay, I was told they didn't take it. I offered a charge card. Nope - cash only. I was directed to an ATM in the corner of the resto, the only way to avoid the 2 buck rip-off fee would have been to walk to the TD bank a block away. I sucked it up and used the ATM, left the nice young man with the change from the 20, and vowed not to return as I wished him a pleasant day. By the way, I noticed the other patios on the street were teeming with happy brunchers, but the guy in front of Big Johnson promoting the joint was repeatedly turned down by passersby looking for variations on a theme of egg. I wouldn't predict a glorious future for this establishment.
John J. / August 13, 2012 at 01:26 am
I was similarly extremely disappointed by this place. It didn't help my comfort level to see only a yellow 'Conditional Pass' sign from our friends at the City of Toronto. Then, as I sat there with an over-priced disappointing dish (bordering on unedible), something dawned on me. Memories of the previous Village Rainbow were all too similar to this. The thing that really struck a chord was the fact they only accept cash. Didn't Village Rainbow get run into the ground financially? I would bet dollars for donuts that this is a sneaky reincarnation of the old Village Rainbow? The farce would come to light if someone saw Village Rainbow on their credit card statement. Not to mention the name Village Rainbow is still prominently displayed on the overhead sign on the corner of the building.

Don't let yourself get taken by the fancy makeover.

Sneakiness notwithstanding, the food is just not worth it.
mayor dodge / August 13, 2012 at 02:19 pm
Sounds like this place is dumbo and jonny-son has a too tiny little bitty wee microscopic mind to stay in business.
Matt / August 16, 2012 at 01:00 pm
Thought we'd check this new place out last night and regret ever going there. I ordered Nachos, when they came the chicken was burnt and they were about as tasty as the piece of paper they were on. Also the guacamole was a nice shade of brown which at first I thought was a side of re-fried beans. Very unappealing. My friend ordered chicken fingers and fries which took a good 10 mins longer to come to our table than the nachos did and it looked like they ran out of french fries and had to run to McDonalds to fullfill the order. The fries were dead ringers for McDonalds...salt and all. The chicken fingers themselves were overcooked and tastless. So that was our first and definitely our last trip to that restaurant.
Jimbo / August 22, 2012 at 02:58 pm
The owner who roles around the place treating his staff like crap, has no respect for anyone! I went there to enjoy a meal with my girlfriend and instead had to have my over priced meal upset by him! I now know I'll never be eating there again! From what I hear he pays his staff under the table to avoid paying taxes! I also understand that there are many staff members that still haven't been payed yet! For anyone that is thinking about eating there, I recommend Mc Donald's! At least you know it won't be people getting ripped off by there boss that are serving you! The owner is also very partial to the gay community but will take your money! Big Johnson's is a joke and so is the owner!
Chris Johnson / August 24, 2012 at 07:58 pm
Hey folks!

My name is Keith and I'm the general manager at Big Johnson's, I'm very sorry to hear that Mel, le Charles, John J, Matt and jimbo have had bad experiences at big Johnson's. I'd like to invite you to send us an email with your information so we can invite you back and turn your bad experience into a great one.

I'd also like to invite anyone who has had a positive or negative experience to contact us, we appreciate the honest feedback.

John J / August 24, 2012 at 09:54 pm
Well Keith, it doesn't sound like your inbox will be flooded with positive feedback.

If you are really Keith, why is your account in the name of Chris Johnson?
Chris Johnson replying to a comment from John J / August 25, 2012 at 05:12 am
Hey John J,

Thanx for your fast response, we are looking forward to hearing from you via email at

We hope to chat soon, have a great weekend

Nelson / August 26, 2012 at 08:57 am
Food was completely bland.....I ordered the chicken was an overcooked tortillia that tasted like baby friend ordered the nachos.....they hardly had any cheese on them and the guacamole and salsa was obviously store bought. When it came to pay for the meal we were told that their debit and credit systems were not working which was just fantastic.....I think it would have been nice to have been told that before we ordered and then we were told we could use the atm located inside the restaurant....Huge dissapointment......Do Not eat here
Peter / August 26, 2012 at 08:45 pm
Big Johnson's = Big Joke
We were so pleased to see that the village rainbow had closed and was being replaced be something new...didn't think it was possible to have a restaurant as bad...
My partner and I were out and saw empty tables on what is one of the best patios on church.
We sat and had a beer each and ordered a sandwich and fries to share. The waiter was pleasant enough. Our food came quick enough...but frozen shoestring fries...are you kidding me? Then I had to go hunt down the waiter for salt/pepper...rather than handing it to me he insisted on walking back to the table with me? The wrap was okay...barely, chicken dry, ingredients did not seem house made.
The waiter...told us to give him a shout if we needed, was never seen again...except chatting with coworkers inside by the bar. Our food done and beers long empty...we sat for 20-30 minutes attempting to get his attention for the bill. Finally we asked the host if he could have our waiter come to the table...another 15 minutes passed and nothing.

So we did something we have never done before...we left $25 on the table...estimating that it would roughly cover 2 draught and a $9 meal...and walked out. I hope there was nothing left for a tip.

We will NEVER return here...and have replayed this experience to several friends.

Big Johnson's will not be around long. Today we stopped for a drink on the patio at o'gradys across the
street...on a perfect summer Sunday afternoon there was only one table on the patio at big Johnson's.

Do not bother going here. They deserve to fail.
Unhappy Customer / August 31, 2012 at 05:15 pm
I was forced to go to this resturant against my own will and better judgement. So our waitor was the biggest meathead ever, dumb as a doorbknob. Had no idea what was on tap (he should know this). So I ordered the chicken fajitas and he brings me the lunch wrap with a side of yucky McCain french fries. And he's like 'ohhhhhhhhhh'. I hate hate hate onions, and there was piles of onions in it, even though there was no mention of onions even on the wrap menu for this item (which I never even ordered). Then I asked can we have the billS... yes 2 seperate bills... he brings out 1 bill then tells us he can't seperate them :(
And then he says we dont take credit card or debit cash only today. On top of it all, the food was fucking grose. Yuck. A $5 grocery store wrap with McCain french fries and a pop (without a big tip they were expecting) came to around $17.75... pass.

This is why I only go to pre approved resturants I like. And if people dont like, hey tough shit go eat alone.
Steve / September 5, 2012 at 09:36 am
Mediocre food from a limited menu. Unbelievably insulting and incompetent service. Slow. Still no credit/debit. Owner suffering from delusions of grandeur.

Save your dollars for better choices for better food and friendlier, more efficient and real service. Mere steps away are establishments that are committed to the long term and building better relations with clientele.

I agree with Peter from August 28: deserves to fail.
bw / September 14, 2012 at 07:45 pm
Music is to heavy and rocky for Friday start weekend night . Bar service way to slow, warm glasses in a bar.
Marc / September 20, 2012 at 08:27 pm
Place has decent food friendly staff but the owner rolling around on wheels with his demonic looks creeps the fuck out 0f me, made me not wna go back constantly swearing and treating staff like garbage they have flat beer, when i went to the washroom i saw nothing but flies in the kitchen nasty , i also heard the owner does not pay his staff and i offered the young man legal advise and how he can take action to sue this company.
Brian Nicholson / October 4, 2012 at 10:59 pm
Quite a tasty meal. Enjoyed the food. HOWEVER, poor service, a long wait for the food. Promised to be comped for this meal and the meal on the next visit but when the bill arrived charged full price for this meal. Fully expected to pay for the wine and beverages, but not the meal. Can't recommend.
Laurie&Jay / October 16, 2012 at 10:32 am
We are now from out of town and enjoy finding a good patio and restaurant to eat at.We have been to BIG Johnsons twice now and we have been pleasantly surprized be the food and the wait staff.Our first experience was amazing,,,Calamari,,was to die for.So was all the entrees.The wait staff were friendly and made our meal even more pleasant. We were there for Thanksgiving and to our surprize we got our Turkey dinner we thought we would have missed.A donation to the FOOD BANK and to purchase our drinks was all it took.Thanks to your Restaurant,we enjoyed a great meal and to a good cause.We'll be seeing you in Nov.Keep up the good work!!!!!
Disgruntled Former Employee / October 25, 2012 at 06:16 pm
I worked here for a few months in the summer and I can attest to all of the negative things people are saying about this place first hand. First of all, there are at least 10 employees who haven't been paid any hourly wage for the time they spent slaving for Chris, the owner in a wheelchair who is a drunken, abusive, sad little man. One of the kitchen staff was actually unable to pay for her textbooks for school in September, and then was fired when she asked to be paid. The kitchen is disgusting, flies everywhere. The washrooms are also gross. Not to mention the place doesn't recycle at all. Just go to the side of the building (on Maitland) and you'll see literal heaps of black garbage bags being thrown away every day. On the menu they claim that they get fresh and local ingredients daily. That is a blatant lie. Everything comes from a box. You only have to look at the fries to realize that. I have been serving off and on for quite a while, and I can say that I've NEVER heard so many complaints about the food. A few concerns were: 1)glass in a salad that a child was eating 2)raw chicken wings on more than one occasion 3)a burger served with the plastic wrap (made fresh right?) melted onto the meat and then slapped on a bun 4)sangria pitchers served to tables FULL OF FRUIT FLIES.

Just. Don't. Go.
torontogirl090 / November 18, 2012 at 10:28 pm
Is it true that they haven't paid the bills and staff for a while and then the owner is closing the doors for a week and re-opening pretending there is a new onwer?
David / November 23, 2012 at 09:20 pm
Complaining is very beneficial to businesses. Input helps improve service. I was an employee at the Village Rainbow for over 15 yrs. and I can say that they treated me and their staff with the utmost respect. Suggestions were taken seriously and discussed and the customers were generally very satisfied. Sorry to hear that the corner of Maitland and Church seems to have fallen on hard times. GREAT location!!! Fun spot!!! Brunch at the Rainbow was Always busy and seemed like fun for the customers,and hope that things improve!I do realize that negative responses are more likely to be adverised in this forum, but truly believe that the Rainbow was a good fit for this corner. It was too bad, (my opinion), that it did change, when effectual change was imminent! But alas , too late. It became (again my opion, economically inviable) rent, wages, taxes etc etc....Prices must effect performance, in other words, and this is not possible on Church any longer. This seems obvious with all the closures happening now. Kinda sad really! Good luck to the community.
Disgruntled Creditor / November 25, 2012 at 01:27 am
As a former supplier of the Village Rainbow who got badly burned by them, let me tell you that from a business standpoint, they are nothing but a bunch of thieves. I had nothing but elaborate stories from them as to why payment terms of theirs should be extended and more flexible. So I tried to accomodate and work with them. Well, do you think there was ever any appreciation or respect for it? Absolutely not. Heaven forbid the thought of them giving you some interest for all the additional time I gave them on numerous occasions to pay.

Then when times got rough, do you think they displayed any honesty about their situation? Absolutely not. They ran up their bill like crazy and then conveniently disappeared off the face of the planet. No attempt was made to settle up.

Now, try to pursue them legally, and you have to take a number behind a whole slew of other parties. Guess why Big Johnson's doesn't accept debit or credit? Because Village Rainbow screwed their merchant account provider LARGE. Guess why employees must be paid under the table? Don't know for sure but ill bet you it has something to do with screwing the government payroll people.

How can the Village restaurant / bar scene get better when you have crooks like that running the businesses there??????
Former Employee / January 21, 2013 at 12:41 pm
to Torontogirl090... yes it is true they did not pay the staff and now the minister of labour is involved notice received the other day that the owner did not response to the first inquiry by the minister and now going to the next level. Funny there are renovations happening at the location, but no building permits posted also, no notice for a liquor license application either.... Rumour has it that they are suppose to open in February under the name Church Street Garage... funny there is already a Garage Sandwich company on the street... be sure of one thing my money will not be going there anytime soon
Former employee #2 / March 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm
Wow long story here. Great people to work with (for the most part minus an untalented egotistical head chef who was so deluded she believed she had any skill what so ever). Hate to say it but this place is cursed. The old owner ran it so far into the ground that it's unrecoverable. Every other week when payday came there were ALWAYS issues. Not just once in awhile. Always. Some people payed for 10 hours in a biweekly period when they actually worked 80+. The new owner is also a loser. Does not know how the industry works. Saw her break down in tears multiple times due to workplace stress. Not to mention the drinking on the job and being drunk and soliciting staff to sleep with her. I truly beg anyone to save your money and not feed these corrupt scum. Big Johnsons or garage, both are shit holes.
john / April 1, 2013 at 11:51 am
watching from o gradys as they come and go 2 weeks ago saw the 2 guys that are part owner they looked like druggies no class and was trying to get customers from o gradys to come try them out. The have alot of work still using old furnature all scratched up again you know this place will not be around long. And very low class trying to steal guests from o gradys and were very open about it. Another closing soon the patio still looks bad and the blue plastic still peeling off the windows.
Watch you like a hawk / November 4, 2014 at 10:21 pm
Busted !! Anyone who got burned by the owners of Big Johnson's or Village Rainbow, one of its owners is now working as manager at Mr. Greek's at the Kennedy Commons location in Scarborough. Let's see how long that place lasts !

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