« JJ Fish and Chicken | Main | L'Etoile »

Johnny O's

In a word: Puts the meat in meat market.

The specs: #0311
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Yelp and Badger Herald: 8/29/2003 and 10/6/2004; official web site; Johnny O'S Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

JM ate the crispy chicken fillet sandwich and onion rings with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the peanut butter burger with kettle chips.
The bill was $13, or $6.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Johnny O's a B+; Nichole gave Johnny O's a B- (see our grading rubric).

Latest Johnny O's news and reviews

Johnny O'sWe were apprehensive about Johnny O's. It was hard for us to get to, with late, campus-centric hours; it has a dress code and a rep as a place to hook up and buy expensive drinks; and most of all, we thought it would be just another bar. We were pleasantly surprised, then, that the food turned out to be better than average. We may have dodged a bullet by picking a weeknight between semesters when the place was empty save the bartender, the cook, and a friend or two to keep them company.

We ordered from the bar and our food came out four songs later. The soundtrack was mostly good: Rock the Casbah, Tom Jones' cover of Sex Bomb, and Life is a Highway (released, to our chagrin, when we were in our teens but doubtless in the usual clientele's pre-K years). While loud, this music was cheering and made JM feel that he was still in the know about something.

Peanut butter burger

As for the peanut butter burger, Kate's burger rating guide was helpful yet again.

  • Bun: big, white, not toasted.
  • Meat: this was the shocker. The 1/2 lb. beef patty was excellent. It was firmly packed and a touch dry, not greasy. It had a more sophisticated seasoning than most bar burgers: there was a hint of garlic, maybe Worcestershire sauce, and definitely onion.
  • Bun/meat ratio: by volume, it seemed fine, but the bun had more surface area and was a little too thin and squishy to hold up against the dense patty. A taller, firmer toasted wheat bun might have been better. Yes, yes, wheat is almost always better, come to think of it.
  • Misc.: the tomatoes and lettuce were OK; the raw white onions were a bit harsh. About a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter was spread on the top bun, and Nichole's verdict is that cheese rules. Though the menu called the PB burger a "taste sensation" originating in the South, peanut butter on a burger tastes like, well, peanut butter on a burger. At least in this case (and corrections/recipes are welcome - maybe the PB should go right on the meat?) there's none of the synthesis and interplay of complementary flavors that you get in, say, variations on satay or even with humble mayo on pizza. About a 7 of 10 overall, due almost totally to the patty itself.

Chicken filet sandwich

JM's crispy chicken fillet sandwich was also distinguished by noteworthy meat. The lightly breaded chicken breast was not too greasy, remained juicy inside, and was just salty enough. The good quality bun was smaller than the one used for the burger, though still not toasted, and the veggie toppings weren't terrible.

The onion rings, on the other hand, were not worth the upcharge from kettle chips. (and we know about JM's dislike of kettle chips.) They're the kind with whole onions, not chopped, which is a matter of personal taste, but these were too crunchy and not served hot enough. The fry grease might have been a little old, since the rings were pretty dark.

Our only major disappointment is that we didn't get the pickles the menu promised, but all things considered, we left Johnny O's much happier than we thought we would. Of course, half of our good mood was attributable to the fact that the next restaurant on our list is the long-awaited L'Etoile. Stay tuned.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Packets of condiments? What's that all about?

Oh my god. L'Etoile is everything you could hope for in this backwater burg. You will love it.

My review:


so, i have to wear a suit to eat a peanut butter and jelly hamburger?

The comments to this entry are closed.


Listen to The Corner Table podcast "Remembering Restaurants," aired December 24, 2020, where Chris and Lindsay talk with us "about the menus and memories left behind when restaurants go away."

Madison Food coverInfo about our book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is here, or read it for free thanks to the library - print & ebook.



About Follow madisonatoz on Twitter Contact
Blogroll Ad 
Free Blog
Read our book and food tour
Dish du jour Creative Commons License subscribe to RSS Subscribe
Memo to restaurants Bloggers' Rights at EFF Quizzes
Reflections BlogWithIntegrity.com Tip jar
Banner image by Kayla Morelli, Red Wheelbarrow Design