From the street, Johnnie’s looks like an undistinguished town café. But it’s an original taste of America … and of southwest Roadfood par excellence.
Onion-fried burgers are Johnnie’s claim to fame. Ribbons of onion are mashed deep into the top of a patty of ground beef as it cooks on the grill, resulting in a hamburger that is an intertwined mix of meat and caramelized onion. It is hefted from the grill and put on a bun, onion side up. Lettuce, tomato, mustard, and pickles are all optional if you like them.
Beyond onion-fried burgers, Johnnie’s is a good place to eat El Reno’s own version of a Coney Island hot dog, topped with meaty chili and a strange, soupy slaw that is pickly, sweet, and mustard-tweaked. Local epicures love this slaw so much that many get it on their burger and some people simply get a bowl of it for spooning up alongside whatever else they eat.
Although onion-fried burgers and Coneys are the unique local specialties here in El Reno, we also recommend breakfast at Johnnie’s. Early morning, the little cafe is packed with locals eating all-you-can-eat platters of biscuits and gravy and Johnnie’s delightful Arkansas sandwich — a pair of pancakes layered with a pair of eggs.