Venture Downstairs to Johnny’s (4 of 50)

The Sunday morning after my Volt experience, I decided I wanted to knock out another one of Baltimore’s 50 best after church. The challenge was finding a place that could accommodate me in such short notice and was close by. I found my way down the list to Johnny’s and made a quick reservation. They were wide open and so my journey began.

Johnny’s is located at 4800 Roland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21210 and specializes in American flavors with a West Coast influence using fresh ingredients.  The restaurant opened in October 2012. They were included in the Baltimore list due to the fried rice for breakfast, ahi tuna salad, and the fish tacos.

It took all of 15 minutes to get to the restaurant located in Roland Park, Baltimore which is a scenic and quiet neighborhood in the city. Johnny’s is located in a strip mall that houses a few other businesses to include another restaurant on the best list Petit Louis, so I will be back! I parked front of the building and thought I was lost until I saw a sign pointing to Johnny’s Downstairs.

IMAG0751 I made my way downstairs, entered the restaurant, and was immediately greeted by a gracious front host. I asked if I could sit at the bar and cancelled my table reservation. The restaurant is spacious and has two dining rooms with separate bars in each room. To the left is the main dining room which had a darker more intimate setting whereas to right is the breakfast dining room which brought in a lot of natural light. The host recommended that I sit at the breakfast bar and I obliged.

IMAG0745When I sat at the bar, I was greeted by a friendly bartender with a bold hairstyle. It was early so the restaurant wasn’t busy yet. The Co-owner and his daughter were enjoying some family time together at one of the tables and the staff looked so happy to see her. It was a very warm and friendly environment. I ordered a bottle of the sparkling water ($6) which happened to be a larger bottle. I felt that was a bit much for the bottle but maybe if shared with others I would feel differently. It should be noted that it was served in a cup full of ice which is not the norm for sparking water but I drank it down quickly and ordered an empty glass.




IMAG0746The magazine’s review of the restaurant mentioned the fried rice dish being the most popular dish on the menu. But I cannot properly access a restaurant based on one dish so I have to order at least 2. I started with the spiced lamb empanadas ($9) based on a recommendation from the bartender.  The empanadas arrived in a set of three on top of chipotle aioli sauce. They were piping hot when they arrived so I decided to eat them with a fork. In my first bite, I was able to taste the well-seasoned flavors of the lamb that were enhanced by the chipotle aioli sauce and the flakey crust that was cooked to perfection. Even sitting in the sauce, the crust wasn’t mushy but held firm and had a great bite. I have generally paid as high as $6-$7 for empanadas but given the nature of the ingredients, I understood the price.

For my entree, I ordered the Kiko’s Loco Fried Rice ($14.95) served with bacon, garlic, scallions, scrambled eggs, and soy sauce. This dish was not listed on the online menu online but was included on the Yelp menu website and totaled $10.50.  Based on a conversation with the bartender, the executive chef took this dish off the menu and customers complained.  After weeks or months of negative customer complaints, they recently put the dish back on the menu. The addition could have been as recent as the weekend of my visit. However, management must have gotten wiser considering the demand of the dish and raised the price and additional $4. The dish was overall delicious. The flavors of the soy sauce, bacon, and scallions came together well. I was satisfied with the order overall but the dish was a tad greasy. It was a generous serving of the rice and I took half of the dish home for later, but I didn’t understand what warranted the price other than consumer demand. Fried rice at a restaurant is generally $9-$10 unless using exotic flavors like duck but bacon just isn’t that expensive. However, I would order the dish again and try to split it with a friend.


I also ordered a side of pork sausage ($4) with my meal.  I wasn’t sure how much bacon would be in my dish and I didn’t want to be disappointed. The sausage was good but was not spectacular. They were served in a set of two patties and quite large JK size. I would try the chicken sausage on my next visit.

My meal totaled $35.99 and after tip was $41.99. A little high but we must consider the quality of the ingredients, the atmosphere of the restaurant, and the service. All of which were well done. Sometimes you have to pay the price for good quality good. I would definitely go back for breakfast and also give dinner a try. I ventured downstairs to Johnny’s, and so should you. The following is my Seven Mac Score for the restaurant.

Criteria Scale Score
Accessibility 1-10 10
Customer Service 1-20 19
Cleanliness 1-10 10
Food Presentation 1-10 9
Price Value 1-10 7
Taste of Food 1-30 28
Overall Experience 1-10 10
TOTAL: 93/100

Please look out for my next post as I review another one of Baltimore’s Best! And remember: It’s a BIG world and we are going to eat our way through it!



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