Tuesday, September 1, 2015Sunny 27°C

Johnny's Charbroiled Hamburgers

Posted by Liora Ipsum / Reviewed on November 7, 2014 / review policy

johnnys hamburgersJohnny's Hamburgers is kind of like an old high school friend, one I haven't seen in far too long but remember fondly from good times past. I'm sure as a teenager I likely wished this place would never change, and upon reuniting after years apart, the discovery that it hasn't changed a bit turns out to be bittersweet.

Walking through the parking lot as I approach the orange building from Victoria Park, the whole flourescent-lit operation is on display to the street, obstructed only by a row of silhouetted figures seated on benches, backs pressed against the front-facing windows as they wait for their order to be up. A steady stream of walk-ins attests to Johnny's enduring popularity.

Johnnys Hamburgers TorontoYellowing press clippings are posted to one wall; one, dated 2003, positions this place second-best in the city, out-shined only by Lick's (ha, how Toronto's burger landscape has changed). Another clipping (2006) ranks Johnny's ahead of Apache Burger in the west end. Amusingly, the most recent thing on the wall is a stark white pest control certificate.

The familiar takeout counter is remarkably well-preserved. The backlit menu board bills hamburgers ($3.05), cheeseburgers ($3.50), cheese dogs ($2.85); steak ($6.30), veal ($3.40) or fish ($3.80) on a kaiser; milkshakes, fountain sodas and sides of fries ($2) and onion rings ($2.10).

Johnnys Hamburgers TorontoIt smells good inside - meat on a charcoal grill always does. The counter is well-manned and service is efficient. I order up one burger and fries, one veal on a kaiser and onion rings. Toppings are applied to order and include a line-up of standards; relish, mustard, ketchup, tomatoes, pickles and onions, both raw and sautéed. There's no lettuce, but that's always been their thing.

The whole order is packed into a bag. The cute cardboard boxes are gone, and since seating is scarce and it's too cold to sit on the curb (the picnic tables are long gone), we take the whole thing to go, as everyone else must do, too. The steam rising out of the bag smells awesome, and everything about this burger experience is promising - rght up until the first bite.

Johnnys Hamburgers TorontoLet me preface this by declaring my love for dirty burgers. For me, the best burgers don't need to be stacked with gourmet fixins on brioche - I like my burgers basic, with cheese and a not-too exotic assortment of toppings. I like that dirty burgers have seen a recent resurgence at places like Burger's Priest, but I also have a soft spot for old-school haunts like Golden Star and Burger Shack. Johnny's might have even remained on this shortlist, if only I'd skipped this reunion.

Johnnys Hamburgers TorontoThe American cheese slapped on the patty isn't a dealbreaker and the toasty bun, which at first seems too big, actually holds up well when eaten. It's the puck of a processed-meat patty that is most disappointing - its glistening crust, imparted with char-grilled flavour, can't do anything to save the spongy grey interior.

Johnnys Hamburgers TorontoThe veal fares no better. It's almost certainly the boxed variety composed of processed bits reformed into a cutlet-like shape and breaded in the same crust you'd find on low-grade freezer aisle chicken nuggets. To be honest, I couldn't tell that it wasn't chicken - the texture was mushy and aside from the toasty bun and pickles, did not require chewing.

The fries, which were once endorsed by Scarborough native Mike Myers for ultra-crispness, thanks to a double-dip in the fryer, don't live up to their reputation. The first few I ate are still tasty straight from the fryer, but once plucked from the steaming paper bag, they're sadly limp and starchy.

Johnnys Hamburgers TorontoOnion rings are decent, but overall the nicest thing I can say about Johnny's is that dinner for two came in under $15.

Johnnys Hamburgers TorontoPhotos by Jesse Milns



AV / November 7, 2014 at 10:47 am
Next review: Barbarian's Steakhouse. Gotta stay current
Bob / November 7, 2014 at 10:48 am
Just like Sonny's in Brampton, Johnny's is not worth the visit. Once great places to get a burger but due to ownership changes, time and the almighty dollar, both are to be avoided.
milo / November 7, 2014 at 11:31 am
the difference is Barbarian's Steakhouse is still great.

Johnny's is only good if you happen to live walking distance and only have $5

Bill Gates / November 7, 2014 at 11:36 am
Good or bad, Johnny's has persevered and will continue to exist long after people stop reading the nonsense that blogto has become.

This site has gone downhill faster than Alberto Tombo.

Good luck.

An now ex-reader
Jacob / November 7, 2014 at 12:08 pm
I went there for the first time last year.

I honestly didn't see what the fuss was about.
Ryan replying to a comment from Bill Gates / November 7, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Poor baby! The shitty burger place you like didn't get a nice review. You won't be missed.
QED replying to a comment from Bill Gates / November 7, 2014 at 12:26 pm
Um, Alberto Tomba? Not sure anyone who references the 1988 Olympics as a cultural touchstone is really qualified to comment on blog content unless it's on Compuserve.
poops replying to a comment from Bill Gates / November 7, 2014 at 12:30 pm
Well damn.. you've lost Bill Gates as a reader. Pretty soon Warren Buffet will stop reading and then it's game over.
Cassie / November 7, 2014 at 12:31 pm
Your right about Johnny's. The first time I went it was amazing, nothing was better, but now its nothing special. I have no interest in going anymore. :(
RA / November 7, 2014 at 01:13 pm
Cheeseburger, Fries, Gravy. Yalla, Pick it up.
jamaal / November 7, 2014 at 01:17 pm
its about time this blog corrects itself and stops endorsing this gross burger. I couldn't believe it when his lazy blog declared Johnny's the best burger in Scarborough just weeks ago. That holdout needs to either reinvent itself or be gone. The old days of crappy food are over.
Rickshaw Mike / November 7, 2014 at 01:30 pm
I used to live near there in the late 80's and the burgers were great.
Adam / November 7, 2014 at 01:34 pm
I'm a Scarborough native, so I get why people might be sensitive about saying a local institution isn't what its cracked up to be. But that is the reality. There are better choices available. Maybe it was great back in highschool when we didn't know better, since it surely beat McDonalds. But c'mon, after eating Burger Priest? This place is full of nostalgia, but it doesn't compare at all.
Marc / November 7, 2014 at 01:47 pm
place was overrated, service was terrible. Staff are a bunch of barbarians, who had never heard of Mayo. Havent been in ages, but I am sure they are still pretending Mayo ruins their burgers when in reality they are too cheap to spend the extra money.

If on the odd chance they have Mayo now, kudos, but Real McCoys is the better Scarbs burger.
Amber replying to a comment from Marc / November 7, 2014 at 02:02 pm
They've always had mayo. You just have to ask for it.
tony / November 7, 2014 at 02:23 pm
You were probably always drunk when you had Johnny's. Most people are and everything tastes gourmet when your drunk at 3am!!
Michael replying to a comment from Marc / November 7, 2014 at 02:32 pm
This place has always been over rated. Real McCoy's Mojo (and T-Bonez homemade burgers) while a little pricier, are by far the best "dirty burgers" in Scarborough, if not the city. Whoever thinks a place that uses the same processed burgers you can pick up at supermarket is tops for burgers, needs their head examined.
Krevanoitch replying to a comment from Marc / November 7, 2014 at 02:38 pm
That's a lot of whinging about mayo.
Brad / November 7, 2014 at 03:14 pm
Real McCoy is way better, but I pass Johnny's on the bus, so thats where I end up
debbie / November 7, 2014 at 04:10 pm
if i'm going to spend money on junk food, i'll spend it on a wendy's burger. johnny's are a pile of mush between a bun. blech!
OK / November 7, 2014 at 04:26 pm
+1 To Brad's comment

You'll find that nostalgic "Johnny's Essence" at Real McCoys. They are the real kings.
Tim Bits / November 7, 2014 at 04:47 pm
Their burgers are small, but cheap. You get what you pay for. Personally I prefer their souvlaki on a bun, Greek style. For a burger there are so many more places to choose from now, but souvlaki is a specialty of only the old, Greek owned places.
Freddie replying to a comment from Bill Gates / November 7, 2014 at 08:21 pm
Good bye ex reader your welcome back once you learn how to accept a critique.
Steve replying to a comment from Bill Gates / November 8, 2014 at 12:11 am
Lay it on the line there bud! Draw a line in the sand, burn a bridge! Get it done.
Frances / November 8, 2014 at 05:48 am
When you need a burger it doesn't matter where or when. If Johnny's fits the bill then Johnny's it is!
Jackie Sizzle / November 8, 2014 at 11:18 am
Johnny's is still number 1 in thier burger ganra.
Sadly this blog is limp and starchy.
c u next tuesdsy.
Malcolm / November 8, 2014 at 11:27 am
I always preferred their steak on a kaiser (w/ onion rings and a chocolate shake) but to be fair I haven't been there in years.
dj / November 9, 2014 at 07:20 am
Johnny' s burgers were never good, merely a toasty bun with fresh toppings hiding the sawdust patty. When I used to ask for a well done burger I made the cook nervous because it's not possible, more than 2min on the grill and you have a hockey puck or it spontaneously combusts. Was only good for a 3am snack after a night out, anyone who eats one of these burgers and actually says it's ever ok should get a head exam, perhaps the worst burger in Scarborough and I disagree McDonald's is definitely better.
Michelle / November 9, 2014 at 08:17 am
I love when people try to insult someone with spelling errors! The word is genre.
BOB / November 11, 2014 at 12:22 pm
I CAN'T BELIEVE PEOPLE ACTUALLY STILL EAT THIS SHIT!!!!! No wonder ford got so many votes. all the people that eat this shit are so fucked up from all the crap thats in this food, and as far as spelling goes. WHO GIVES A SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!! IT'S NOT LIKE ANYBODY ON THIS SIGHT IS HANDING IN A PROJECT OR TEST AT SCHOOL!! SO THE IDIOTS ON THIS SIGHT THAT CARY ON ABOUT SPELLING. FUCK OFF!!
paul / November 11, 2014 at 04:58 pm
"I used to live near there in the late 80's and the burgers were great."

Same here...As a teen in the late 80's I worked a few intersections over and we used to order all the time. Think they had delivery then. But the food was great.

I used to live 15 min walk from Burger priest, never went once. Dont care for the stupid trend of making the most basic things gourmet. If I want gourmet burgers I would make them myself...its called ground beef and not that hard to do. but being older ground beef quickly turns me off now

Chris replying to a comment from Michelle / December 4, 2014 at 09:25 pm
Thanks for the spelling correction. Reading it, I honestly couldn't figure out what the word was supposed to be.
pat replying to a comment from QED / December 10, 2014 at 10:41 am
Are you serious? Tomba is a legend. References don't have to be present - as long as the impact and significance is huge. The 88 Olympics were great as well. Take shows like the Simpsons (cartoon, but lots of references and homages) And if others don't get it, then too bad - they'll have to look it up and learn.
Luke / February 25, 2015 at 04:23 pm
Just found out that Schneider's stop making the Baron Brand burgers--- the burgers that Johnny's became famous for. Now Johnny's is using MacGregor burgers...
Maybe we need to petition Schneider's instead to reinstate the Baron Burgers.
Jeff / July 13, 2015 at 08:39 pm
Whatever happened to real hamburgers. I don't have much patience for the frozen patties. Does anyone still use fresh?

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