Review of Johnny's (Salado, TX)
Scott had the week off (Happy Birthday, BTW) and I'm off on Tuesdays, so seemed like a good day for a BBQ run. We figured we'd swing up to Salado and check out Johnny's, so we loaded up James and headed north.
Johnny's is a little different in that it is a true sit down restaurant. No counter ordering here. They bring your menus, your food, etc. From a BBQ perspective they offer chicken, turkey, brisket, pork ribs, and sausage (original and jalapeno). But they also have a substantial menu of other items: steaks, burgers, chicken, pork chops, sandwiches, catfish on Fridays, etc. In fact, it seems as though BBQ is a secondary part of the menu. We also notice a sign that indicates their food is prepared fresh …. (Foreshadowing: A valid literary technique). But James orders brisket and jalapeno sausage, Scott orders brisket, jalapeno sausage, and turkey, and I order brisket, original sausage, and pork ribs.
Brisket: The brisket has a nice smoke flavor (mine does anyway), and a nice bark. But the fat isn't well rendered on a lot of it. It's also a bit tough and dry in places. Scott comments that his is actually a bit bland. James seems to like his a bit more, but he's smothered his in sauce. Scott and I give ours 6.0/10. James gives his 8.0/10.
Jalapeno Sausage: It's well made, with a nice snap in the casing and reasonably moist and tender. But Scott commented that there wasn't as much heat as he would like (bland comes up again). He scores it 7.5/10.
Original sausage: This sausage is also well made, with a nice snap, and is juicy and tender. There's actually a fair amount of heat, and a flavor that reminds me of Christmas ham. Possibly clove or allspice. There is one thing missing, which I'll comment on below. I'll score it 7.5/10.
Turkey: The turkey has a very nice spice flavor, as well as some pepper. It's an excellent rub. But it is a touch dry and tough in places. Scott likens it to Saturday after Thanksgiving leftovers in terms of texture. Scott and I score it 6.0/10. James gives it 7.0/10.
Pork Ribs: The ribs are overdone, and fall completely apart when picked up. They are also extremely bland with no real flavor at all (not even much pork flavor). No crust to speak of. I score them 4.0/10. Scott gives them 6.0/10.
You'll notice bland comes up an awful lot here. And with the exception of the brisket, you'll notice the absence of another word: smoke. Except for the brisket, none of the meats had any noticeable smoke flavor to them. If someone told me that the turkey and sausage were roasted in the oven and the ribs in a slow cooker, I'd believe it.
It's a shame really, because there's definitely some potential here. The turkey and the original sausage both had an excellent base flavor, and there was a nice smoke flavor to the brisket. Like the Cubs in game 1, they have the runners on base, but can't seem to bring them home.
It was also interesting to note the sign about "Our Food is Prepared Fresh. Please be Prepared to Wait". At a table service place some waiting is expected, but I found it interesting that we waited as long as we did given that (based on what we ordered) everything should have already been ready to go. They may work under a philosophy of first come, first served, but I saw one table of two that sat after ours that got their burgers before us. So I'm really wondering if the "Our Food is made fresh" part applies to the BBQ as well.
But I suspect this place is more popular for the other items on the menu. Of the tables I could see while we were there, no one else had ordered BBQ. Steaks, burgers, and sandwiches seemed to be the dominant theme.
Is it worth a visit? It seems like an OK place for lunch.
Is it worth a trip? From a BBQ perspective, nope.