If you’re of a certain age you'll remember Johnny Rockets. Deep in the bowels of the Myer Centre, it was the inner-city go-to for teenage birthday parties and stilted first dates. You’d split a shake, ignore the staff dancing along to New York, New York and catch Jerry Maguire at Hoyts just around the corner (or, if you were an able bullshitter, try and hit up a nightclub).
So the nostalgia-fuelled excitement was understandable when Johnny Rockets announced it was opening at the Emporium last month after a long absence on local shores. Only thing is, the new Johnny Rockets is a far cry from the bow ties and tiny hats of the original.
“[It’s] known internally as ‘Johnny Rockets 2.0’,” says Johnny Rockets' Australian GM, Marc Plowman. “[We are] moving away from the old ’50s-diner style into a more millennial-style operation.”
The rights to open Johnny Rockets stores in Australia sat dormant for years until they were finally acquired last year by a Brisbane-based company called JR Restaurants Australia. The Emporium outlet is the first of 100 Johnny Rockets to be rolled out across Australia. It’s also the 400th store internationally.
Moving into the corner tenancy previously occupied by Delfina’s Bistro (which has relocated across Ann Street underneath the Alex Perry Hotel), the Emporium store has been designed by Brisbane's Ellivo Architects in rich reds, white tiles and plenty of wood. The large open kitchen looks out across the venue's signature curved dining room. It’s a distinctly modern space.
“It’s a unique building,” Plowman says. “It’s a big round dining room with an open kitchen that’s got a huge amount of traffic that goes past Ann Street every day.”
Johnny’s looks may have changed, but his burgers have not. There are six beef burgers on the menu, including The Original with a beef patty, crisp leaf lettuce, tomato, diced onion, handmade relish, pickles, mustard and mayonnaise. And the Smoke House with beef patty, crispy smoked bacon, handmade onion rings, cheddar cheese and smoke-house sauce. Two chicken burgers and a vegetarian option are also available.
Johnny Rockets is just as well known for its hand-spun shakes. There are a range of flavours including Hershey’s chocolate, peanut butter, Oreo and Milo.
Plowman says the long-term aim is to open more Johnny Rockets restaurants in Brisbane, and one on the Gold Coast before Christmas.
Johnny Rockets Emporium
1000 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley