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Johnny Rockets: Tears in My Milkshake

By • Aug 5th, 2009 • Category: Burger Blog

With summer quickly coming to an end, and Sydney, my six-year-old daughter, just days away from 1st grade, I decided to take her out for a cheeseburger lunch this past week.

I really wrestled with where to take her.  The Vortex, home of my B.C.O.M.L., was out, since they don’t allow minors.  I really wanted to steer clear of fast-food, since that just didn’t seem special enough.  But at the same time, she’s 6.  She judges restaurants based on how many crayons they give her when we sit down, so taking her for gourmet burgers at some Zagat-rated foodie hotspot would be silly.


I opted for Johnny Rockets.  For those of you who don’t have one, it’s a chain of 1950s-style hamburger joints.  Think “Happy Days” reruns.  Or a fluorescent-lit, family-friendly version of Jack Rabbit Slim’s in “Pulp Fiction.”  Chrome and red leather everywhere, a long bar with swivel stools and miles of Formica, a wait staff dressed in long white aprons and black bow ties.  They’re located in 27 states, a handful of foreign countries, and even aboard Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships.

And, as luck would have it, there’s one less than 4 miles from my front door.


Sydney had never been to a Johnny Rockets; I hadn’t been in years.  She fell in love instantly with the two-seat booth we got and the mini-jukebox on the table (after I explained what it was).  She thought the metal change dispenser the waiter wore on his belt was cool (after I explained what it was).

The menu at Johnny Rockets is basic American diner fare.  About a dozen different burgers to choose from.  Nothing too crazy.  There’s a single, a double, ones with bacon, one with mushrooms and Swiss, something that goes by the mysterious name of “#12.”  At one end of the spectrum, there’s the Streamliner, a meatless soy burger (um… no).  At the other end, there’s the Chili Size, a chili-cheese-and-onion-topped meal served open-faced for maximum messiness.  My daughter ordered a cheeseburger off the kids’ menu.  I got the Bacon Cheddar Single, fries, and a Coke with a chocolate shot (always my favorite thing about Johnny Rockets).


By this point in my tenure, my daughter has figured out that Daddy eats a lot of cheeseburgers, and that Daddy always wants to take a picture of every cheeseburger that comes to the table.  She tolerated the photo ops and then dug in.  She’s also come to realize that I ask a lot of questions whenever cheeseburgers are being eaten, so she was ready for the interview portion of our lunch. 

I, however, wasn’t ready for her answer.


What follows is a pretty-much verbatim transcript of our conversation.  Have “In the Still of the Night” by the Five Satins playing in the background for maximum effect.

Daddy: What do you think, Sydney?

Sydney: Good.

Daddy: Is it the best cheeseburger you’ve ever eaten?  ( I assumed the answer would be yes.  She’s at that age where her “favorite” is always “the most recent.”  Favorite movie?  The one she just saw.  Favorite song?  The one that’s on right now.)

Sydney: Well… (Now she has my attention.  Anything that comes after a six-year-old sing-songs, “Well…” is going to be: a) completely inappropriate and requiring some sort of public apology to someone, b) precociously smart-ass and worthy of a phone call to someone else with kids so you can relate the story instantly to an understanding audience, or c) utterly heart-melting in that unexpectedly adorable, reduce-you-to-a-teary-blob-of-Jello kind of way.)

Daddy: Well what?

Sydney: It’s not my All-Time Champion Cheeseburger.

Daddy: Really???  (I’m now practically tearing up since I didn’t even know she had an All-Time Champion Cheeseburger.)  What is?

Sydney: The Jucy Lucy you made, Daddy. (Oh, man.  She went with c.)

For that, we ordered dessert.  We got a vanilla milkshake served in one of those cool bell-shaped malt shop glasses with the metal-handled holder, with two straws, and the second helping ready and waiting in the metal mixing cup.


I wanted apple pie, but this Johnny Rockets didn’t have it on the menu.  (I thought they all did.)  We got a brownie instead.  And I gave my daughter the big half.

All in all, the cheeseburger was pretty decent.  The lunch, though, was perfectly unforgettable.

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2 Responses to “Johnny Rockets: Tears in My Milkshake”

  1. 1
    Erin Says:

    Love the cheeseburger stories! We’re doing a “best cheeseburger story” and would love to publicize it on Email me for more info, the contest starts soon!

  2. 2
    Leilani Says:

    thats so sweet, what ur daughter said!

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