Whether you’re hankering for a simple, blue-collar burger or a patty with a bit more flair, you’ll find something to suit your taste in “Flipping for Florida Burgers,” VISIT FLORIDA’s occasional series exploring the state’s burger joints. Hungry for some meat? Let’s eat!
You can get a burger at hundreds of places in Orlando these days.
But none of those places will surround you with street signs, an old mailbox, deer heads, neon beer lights, happy family and nightlife photos, yellowed concert tickets, newspaper articles -- you name it, it’s probably on the walls at Johnny’s Fillin’ Station.
The dressed-down, eclectic feel of Johnny’s is no mistake. After spending eight years as a successful shaved-ice business that served beer, wine and sandwiches on the side, the joint officially opened in 1993. Once Johnny’s got a liquor license, emphasis was placed on food quality, eventually leading to its “best burger” status from various media outlets over the years.
“We went from a little mom-and-pop shop and evolved into making our own sauces, roasting our corned beef,” said Andy Baker, vice president of operations for Johnny’s.
And indeed, the Reuben’s zesty sauerkraut, sweet Thousand Island dressing, tender corned beef slices and melted Swiss cheese smack of homemade goodness.
But the ambience at the 155-seat restaurant is what draws regulars and tourists.
“Everyone just loves the atmosphere. It’s laid back. There are thousands of things on the wall to look at. It’s just a neighborhood spot to relax,” Baker said.
Guests can enjoy 15 flat-screen TVs, two pool tables, a 15-person bar and a couple of video games. The wine and beer offerings are extensive, with 17 beers on tap and 21 craft beers available. Seating includes bar stools at community tables in the game room area, as well as booths and tables in the dining room.
“It’s a nice, chill place to hang out,” said Darcy Screws, 26, of Orlando. “It’s very relaxing.” Screws and her friend Brian Praxaya, 40, said they come to Johnny’s about once a month.
“They have really great burgers,” Screws added.
Among the 11 burger offerings are the Fillin’ Station Full Service Burger with ham, mushrooms and cheese on a toasted Kaiser roll, and the Texas Chili Burger with savory bean-less chili and cheddar atop Texas toast.
The 81 percent lean ground beef patties are hand cut each morning.
“They are made with a little extra love,” Baker said. “Everything’s made to order. It’s not fast food.”
Johnny’s culinary dealings became so successful, they decided to turn offices and a kitchen across the parking lot into a second restaurant and bar about five years ago. It’s called, for simplicity’s sake, Johnny’s Other Side.
“We’ve taken the menu to the next level,” Baker said. “It’s a completely different menu.”
While trademark burgers are still offered at Johnny’s Other Side, the menu also features Tuna Ceviche, a Cordon Blue Bird and Cajun Chicken Pasta. It also offers a Sunday brunch, featuring typical down-home favorites, such as biscuits and omelets.
Johnny’s Other Side is also home to poker and trivia nights. Tuesday brings half-price specials on everything, including liquor. Live music is on offer Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Seating – enough to accommodate up to 165 people – is mostly outdoor.
Recently, they added a 15-seat bar at the end of the outdoor seating at Johnny’s Other Side, called Johnny’s Beer Shack. It offers 18 craft beers and homemade flavored vodka.
“It just adds another little dimension,” Baker said.
But nothing beats a Bacon Bleu Cheese Burger and a Cigar City Jai Alai brew at the original Johnny’s.
“We like this (location) better,” said Screws. “It’s more chill.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Johnny’s Fillin’ Station, Johnny’s Other Side, Johnny’s Beer Shack
WHERE: 2631 S. Ferncreek Ave., Orlando
WHEN: Open 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
CONTACT: Call 407-894-6900 or visit johnnysfillinstation.com