Saturday, March 21, 2009

Don't Believe the Hype. Best Burger in Orlando not at Johnny's Fillin Station

Johnny’s Fillin Station does not have the best burger in Orlando. No way. No how. Do not be fooled by reader polls, your friends, the internet, the sign plastered on the side of the restaurant’s building, or the claim emblazoned on the front of the menus. Granted, they do have good burgers. Maybe top ten or top five in Orlando - but not the best. That out of the way, let me tell you I love a good burger. I’ve heard about this place for some time and always wanted to try it. I was excited to experience the place and taste the burgers there.

Johnny’s is located in a seedier section of what is now known as SoDo – south of downtown. It’s on the corner of Fern Creek and Michigan Ave. The building looks like a hole in the wall, with a much bigger parking lot than any old hole in the wall should need. And the lot was quite full. The inside is bigger than you would think from the outside. The walls are covered with discarded items – memorabilia, old signs, bicycles, posters, junk really. Large flat-screen TVs are everywhere. More TVs than I’ve ever seen in any restaurant of this size. There’s a large dining section with pool tables and the bar, a smaller dining section to the side, and a patio with seating and live music outside. We couldn’t find a hosts stand, so we sat ourselves down in the smaller dining section. The place was busy with only a table or two open.

This is a bar that serves food. A lot of food. A lot more than the average bar. The crowd seemed more of a bar crowd than a restaurant crowd, and they leaned toward the biker/rocker type. There were a few couples and one or two families with kids. A couple of folks had on business attire. I bet it gets a little more rowdy as the night goes on as more beer and less food is served. We didn’t feel entirely at home.

After about 10 minutes, a waitress finally spotted us and came over to see if we were ready to order. We were. My guest and I started with the Sweet Corn Nuggets ($5.10). The fried, cream corn nuggets were served on wax paper in a plastic basket with a generous layer of powdered sugar on top. They were tasty but nothing special. A few of the nuggets were cold on the inside.

I ordered the half-pound Bacon Cheeseburger ($7.65) with Steak Fries (99 cents extra) and my guest ordered the Mushroom Swiss Burger ($7.40) with the same Steak Fries. Both burgers were a little north of medium-well as ordered. The patties were large and juicy but without a lot of flavor. The meat, however, seemed very fresh as were the lettuce, tomatoes and purple onions on the side. The toasted bun was a bit of a disappointment. It was nothing special – like one you would buy at the grocery store. The bun was just too small and too ordinary for what is supposed to be: a special burger. Upgrading the bun would do wonders for the best burger claim. My cheese was American. The kind that comes in the plastic wrapper you peel before eating. A cheese upgrade is recommended. The mushrooms on the Mushroom Swiss Burger were straight out of a can. The best burger in Orlando is not served with canned mushrooms, come on! I think I would have enjoyed the burger more had it not come with such lofty expectations.

Service was slow and inattentive. The waitresses were mostly young and most tattooed. Our waitress never came back to check on us after serving the burgers or to bring us the bill. The waitress for the table next to us saw us staring into space over empty baskets and glasses and kindly brought us refills and our check. Our bill came to 28.90 with two soft drinks.

Would I go back to Johnny’s Fillin Station? No, probably wouldn’t. Not for the service. Not for the atmosphere. Not for the pricing. Maybe for the food. I hear they deliver. Now, there’s an option.

Overall score: 2 ½ Generic Buns out of 5

Johnny’s Fillin Station
2631 S. Ferncreek Ave.
Orlando, FL 32806


Johnny's Fillin' Station on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

I've never been to Johnny's Fillin' Station, in part because the Hideaway, another oft-mentioned contender for Best Burger in Orlando, is right down the street from my house.

I'd be curious to know who, in the opinion of Eating Orlando, serves the ten best burgers in town.

Anonymous said...

THere was a time when Johnny's DID have the best burger but those days are long gone. It's funny that you mention the mediocre bun. They used to have a larger, better bun but they changed it and that was the beginning of the end. My wife and I used to go there after work at least twice a week but we saw it starting to decline by degrees. It's probably been a year since we've been there and have no plans of ever going back. You'd think that by having the reputation for the "best burger" they would defend that title to the death and make that burger their main focus.

Minor-Gross said...

Totally agree with this review. They have a good burger but def not the best. I eat there ALL THE TIME though because it is so close to the house. There steak fries are good too. My top 2 fav burgers so far are Morgans, in Sanford and Ravenous Pig in winter park.

Anonymous said...

Johnny's used to be a lot of things. The service has gotten so bad that now it's a surprise to have a beer within 10 minutes of sitting down. Don't even think about ordering food when it's crowded. See you in 45 minutes.

Like everywhere else, the portions have gotten smaller and the prices have gotten more expensive.

About the best thing you can say about Johnny's is that it has soul. There's never any new blood at the bar. Just regulars. Ditto mostly on the back patio. Which is nice for Johnny. They're keeping him afloat.

Anonymous said...

Agreed 100% with this review. I could not have said it better myself. I even mentioned to the managed "whats with the McDonalds Buns?" his response was they have always been like this. O'Rly... politely told him to keep his Burger with a side of bun. got up and left with my Fiance and went to get a REAL burger at Backyard Burger on OBT. Johnnys 100% two thumbs down....

Burger Conquest - Rev said...

So what is the best burger? Frustrating.

Anonymous said...

Yes, so what is good out there? I'm craving a thick juicy flavorful burger! So far my favorite is from Houston's but a bit on the high end of $14.

Anonymous said...

Best burger in Orlando is without question, the Downtown Pourhouse. The Black and Tan Burger with their delicious sweet potato fries. It will change your life

Orlando Gourmet Restaurant said...

For myself: The Best Burger in Orlando is Graffiti Junktion or 5 guys.

Kevin said...

What makes a good burger in my opinion is the right amount of fat in the burger, the right initial sear on the burger to lock in the juices (don't flatten it! or squish it at all!) IN my opinion the best burger BY FAR that have tasted in Orlando, is at Dexters in Winter Park, BY FAR. Try it.

Garrett said...

Find the Crooked Spoon food truck and have the 420 burger. It is bar none the best I have ever had, hands down no question.