Johnny Rockets - the Great American Diner

America has had a love affair with the Diner since the 1930's. Back then you could find them everywhere - in fact they were the predominant type of restaurant in America for perhaps 30 years. Sure there were variations on the Diner, some came prefabricated, others were made from train cars and then during the 1950's, the Diner morphed into the Drive-in. The Diner set within Arnold's Drive-in was the principle shooting location for 8 or 9 seasons on ABC's hit sitcom Happy Days. A Diner featured prominently in the movie Grease. And eventually a small Diner from California turned itself into the World's largest restaurant chain - McDonalds. Diners were everywhere - but not anymore. While there may be tens of thousands of McDonalds spread across the globe, the chain gave up on its Diner roots long ago.

One of the true great American diners

Beauty School DropOut by Grease on Grooveshark

"Beauty School Drop Out" from Grease took place in the Diner

So what is it that makes a Diner a Diner anyway? Here are some of the key criteria:
  • It must have the Diner look and Feel. That means lots of metal in the decor, stools to sit on with a counter and jukeboxes for starters. (booths are nice too)
  • It must have a limited menu, one focused on traditional diner cuisine. Now this doesn't always translate to burgers and fries but it is limited pretty much to what you can be cooked short order using larger grills.
  • A Diner absolutely, positively must serve Milk Shakes, Malts and Floats. Diners in fact inherited the role of Malt Shop once that institution migrated out of drugstores in 1920's and 30's. It is still the best place (outside of a Coldstone perhaps) to get real quality Milkshakes.
  • Diner employees tend to wear white uniforms and funny hats. This is an important part of the experience.
  • Diners aren't healthy - this is where fast food was born. Eating vegetarian or organic food in a Diner seems a bit oxymoronic. 
  • Diners are friendly, casual dining environments. It's not meant to be fancy - you come as you are.

The opening of a Johnny Rockets Diner in Texas

In every city or region there a few hidden gems lurking about - Diners that somehow survived or were reborn. Place like Culp's Cafe in Dayton Ohio and Dot's Diner in Bisbee, Arizona. But there is only one true Diner chain that evokes the memory of what the American Diner used to be and that's Johnny Rockets. They've got outlets across the country and in more than a dozen nations. They've even put a number of Diners in Royal Caribbean cruise ships - that's not something we've tried but it certainly sounds intriguing.
The American Cheeseburger - king of cholesterol 
So why do we like Johnny Rockets so much? Here's our reasons:
  • Because they have absolutely awesome Milkshakes - the cherry chocolate is a life altering experience.
  • Because we can find them in the places we like to go - (from DC to Tuscon to Cincinnati).
  • Because it's become a family tradition. 
  • Because you can go there just for dessert and the experience of being there - so you could get a pizza somewhere else or go to a movie and then just stop by for shakes. 
  • Because they know how to draw smiley faces and other animal characters using Ketchup. 
  • Because we love only paying a nickel to use the jukebox that's at each table (when it's working).

This song has nothing to do with the restaurant but we liked it and put it in anyway

Eating at a Diner is a unique part of living in America and now it has become a way to relive our past in a tangible and tasty way. It may not be good for us but it's a heck of a lot of fun and Johnny Rockets is perhaps the best place across the nation to experience this for yourself.

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