While I have enjoyed Johnnie's for years at catered affairs and picnics, I had never really gotten out of the car and into the line. It's Friday afternoon at 2:35pm, hardly lunch hour, and the line snakes around the back. It moves fast with the ever-present smell of sausage and beef in the air. The door sign says to keep it closed, and everyone is pretty much measuring their party with the avaiable inside space. No sense getting anyone mad before you've got the goods.
Once inside, it's pretty spartan. Even more surprising is the fact that one order-taker runs the entire show. Now he does have a half-dozen specialists putting the orders together, but he takes every order, translates to the staff, completes the payment process and hands you the correct order... after checking your bag for accuracy.
As it's my first time, I decided to go with the standards. As a quick study and a master of Chicago beef places, I'm ready to order well before my turn. Important as the order-taker is, he as unfriendly as they come... and you can sense it with each person's turn... perhaps, the Beef Nazi?
Beef, sweet, small fries, small ice. A look as if, not bad! $6.72; gotcha as my money is already in hand and extended. Change is in my hand in seconds followed by the goods. The beef. Fantastic! Great bread and sweet, which means a mixture of sweet, green peppers and sweet giardinare. Nice touch. I ordered regular, so no extra juice or dipping for me. Much too hard to hold the bread when over-wet.
The fries came out smoking hot, salted just right and were very good. But the star of the show was the small ice. Small ice means small, Italian lemon ice. It seems lighter than most I've tried, is really lemony, and may be the best ice I've ever had.
It's funny how a place this good, this close, and this famous, takes me 40 years to get to.