Johnnie’s (NW Expwy.)–Oklahoma City, OK

Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler
6629 Northwest Expressway
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 721-9018
Johnnie's on NW Expwy.

Johnnie’s on Northwest Expressway


Johnnie’s has been my favorite place for hamburgers in Oklahoma City since the demise of the Split-T and The Patio, and follows these restaurants’ formula of serving charcoal broiled hamburgers with hickory sauce. “Johnnie’s sauce” is based on the one at Split- T, with a tangy flavor very similar to some of the sauces served at various barbecue restaurants . It is a difficult task for any restaurant to live up to someone’s childhood memories, and I still think the Split-T and Patio had the best hamburgers ever, but Johnnie’s has been doing a good job of continuing the tradition of what I consider to be “Oklahoma City style hamburgers.”

Photo of the old Split T

Historical photos at Johnnie’s pay homage to some of the city’s early restaurants, including this one of the Split-T

I understand that the hamburgers at Johnnie’s are cooked partially over charcoal (giving them a distinctive flavor), and partially on a gas grill (making sure they are thoroughly cooked). I think it has an excellent result, and is even better with Johnnie’s sauce. I still think this is the best burger in Oklahoma, based on a subjective scale of the burger being important but the sauce being crucial (and I think no one else has a better sauce).

To me the veggie burger is equal in enjoyment to the hamburger, although with the provision that I get it with Johnnie’s sauce. To be honest, most veggie burgers are a real letdown, but the one here is a genuinely good patty with an even better sauce.

I think since about 2012 this location of Johnnie’s has been working hard to maintain its quality control, eliminating the gap I used to see between this restaurant and the Britton Road location. I have not tried the food at all of Johnnie’s locations, but I do believe this restaurant is a good one to sample Johnnie’s food.

Burgers

Number 5 hamburger

Number 5 hamburger

One of the main attractions here is the No. 5 Hamburger, a charcoal broiled burger with Johnnie’s sauce, pickles, and onions. The sauce is cooked each day for about five hours, and is made with a secret blend of ingredients. It is much like a barbecue sauce, but this one is better than any similar sauce I have tried in the barbecue restaurants. The theta burger (which includes mayo and Johnnie’s sauce) is also quite popular, but is not a favorite of mine.

These hamburgers are good regardless of the toppings. The meat patties are made with chuck, and are higher quality than the average hamburger. Hamburgers are not on my regular diet any more, and I have only tried a few recently, but out of these I thought the ones at Johnnie’s and the old VZD were at the top of the list in terms of quality.

The buns with sesame seeds comprise the third feature that makes this hamburger so enjoyable. Johnnie’s has burgers available without the bun for those who want it this way, but for me the best choices are to get a veggie burger or hamburger on a bun.

Veggie burger

Veggie burger

At Johnnie’s a Veggie Burger is a good alternative to the hamburger, although I would say this would not be the case at most restaurants. Here the meatless burger seems to have a better flavor than others, even though several others match Johnnie’s “Southwest” style with black beans and other ingredients. The veggie burger does not come with Johnnie’s sauce as a default, but I think this is the way to order it.

Frankfurters
Johnnie’s offers some other choices if you are not in the mood for a burger. One popular item is the Frankfurter with chili and cheese, similar to the coney hot dogs served at many of the local hamburger restaurants. The frankfurter seemed to be better quality than most, with more meat and less “filler” than many hot dogs, as well as a good flavor. The chili, though, was disappointing compared to the “other” Johnnie’s in El Reno (this is a separate restaurant, not related to Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler). The chili is Texas style–spicy and brown colored (Texas chili can be very good, but I just don’t care much for the one here).

Sandwiches

Basil chicken flat bread sandwich

Basil chicken flat bread sandwich

In recent years Johnnie’s has expanded its menu to include items other than its signature hamburgers. Although I was skeptical about ordering any of them, the Basil Chicken Flat Bread Sandwich was surprisingly good. Made with grilled chicken breast meat, provolone cheese, balsamic basil vinaigrette dressing, and herbed flat bread, no one of these components was really a weak link in the sandwich. I cannot say that the balsamic vinaigrette dressing was comparable in flavor to the Johnnie’s sauce used on hamburgers, but I still thought the dressing used on the chicken sandwich was good quality and had a good flavor. The home made chips that came with the sandwich were quite good, and overall the sandwich was a positive addition to the menu. Note: I do not see this on the current menu but the menu changes from time to time and it may come back.

Chicken sandwich

Chicken sandwich with baked beans

The Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich had less flavor than the previous flat bread sandwich but it is a good alternative if you do not want a burger. I frankly prefer the chicken at several barbecue restaurants, though, such as Swadley’s or Billy Sims.

Platters

Chicken fried chicken

Chicken fried chicken

The Chicken Fried Chicken did not really stand out to me except for the fact that the gravy was very good, and of course it comes with Johnnie’s french fries (you can also get a baked potato or onion rings instead).

Side Dishes
The French Fries are almost addictive with just the right amount of grease. The large order is probably appropriate only for a family with hungry kids (if you can eat an order by yourself, I would seriously worry about you!).

Baked Beans are a healthier side dish, and just about as good as the fries. Because of tradition, though, I usually order the fries.

Soup and Salad

Vegetable soup

Vegetable soup

The Vegetable Soup is a very worthwhile side dish, not only to make a healthy meal but also for the flavor. I cannot verify this information, but the soup seemed to be made from scratch using fresh ingredients, and I was quite impressed.

Chicken noodle soup

Chicken noodle soup

The Chicken Noodle Soup was also quite good except that I thought it was too salty.

Chef salad

Chef salad

Salads are also available such as a chef salad, Mandarin cranberry, and strawberry spinach (which the menu says is seasonal).

Drinks
The Iced Tea is very good, partly because the crystal clear ice is much better than the ice I can make at home from tap water.

When I really need a Milk Shake (such as after a visit to the dentist or other traumatic experiences) I head to Johnnie’s. As strange as it may sound, it even goes well with a hamburger (I tried it myself just to make sure I could make this statement). I think the one here is better than at Braum’s, but others are welcome to make their own taste test.

Desserts

Cobbler

Blackberry cobbler

Blackberry Cobbler was less sweet than those I usually find at restaurants (and I think this is a good thing). Like other items here, the cobbler tasted fresh and made from scratch. The only negative was that the crust was not my favorite.

Apple dumpling

Apple dumpling

The Apple Dumpling was good, but somehow I never had the desire to try it a second time (to me, eating something with Johnnie’s sauce is almost a dessert to me).

Chocolate pie

Chocolate pie

Chocolate Pie always looks like the best dessert in the display case, yet I have found it to be disappointing. It seems to be mostly cream and there is not much chocolate flavor to it.

Summing It Up
Johnnie’s sauce is something that allows me to relive some of my pleasant experiences from childhood, and because of this I am a very loyal customer here. Although eating it with a veggie burger may be an acquired taste, I really enjoy it and actually prefer it to the regular burger. I do believe Johnnie’s has one of the better hamburgers but there are undoubtedly better ones in terms of the meat flavor. I do not worry about it much, though, since my favorite “everyday” eating is the veggie burger with Johnnie’s sauce.

For out of town visitors I might say the Johnnie’s on Britton Road offers more of an “experience” with a larger dining room and usually a larger crowd. Otherwise, though, this location should give a good idea of what Johnnie’s is all about.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Hamburgers
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Nov. 22, 2017
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Veggie Burger, Hamburger, French Fries, Cobbler, Milk Shake, Tea

Special Ratings
star 5 Hamburger
star 5 Veggie Burger
star 4 Chicken Fried Chicken
star 4 Grilled Chicken Sandwich
star 4 Frankfurter with Chili and Cheese
star 5 French Fries
star 5 Baked Beans
star 4 Chicken Noodle Soup
star 5 Vegetable Soup
star 5 Cobbler
star 4 Apple Dumpling
star 3 Chocolate Pie

Menu (May 2017):

 

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