Took a first-time trip to Kiddieland in Melrose Park with our family and some others this past weekend, and was pleased to learn that the highly-touted Johnnie's beef was just down the road on North Avenue, which would mean an opportunity to experience for the first time what many bill as the best beef in Chicagoland.
The beef itself was excellent -- tender, good juice, near-perfect hot gardienera. Only criticism of the beef itself is that is could have been a warmer temperature (it was almost luke-warm). The rest of the experience, however, was sub-part. First, the fries were mediocre. I would expect good hand-cut, fresh fries from a place like this -- they were nothing of the sort. Second, the homemade lemon ice was good, but the chocolate shake (malts are one of the few other items they appear to feature) was like mediocre soft-serve from a machine poured into a cup -- granted that's not a bad thing, but I would expect a much better shake or malt from a place like this.
As an aside, my kids had the hot dogs which were nothing special. Also, they don't even have packets of ketchup (forget a plastic bottle) for the fries -- this is not part of the charm, it's absurd. We needed to use the one plastic bottle inside and dump it out on a piece of paper for consumption on the few tables outside.
To top it all off (and this did not prejudice my comments above), as we were leaving the Johnnie's "Security Guard" (yes, they have security in the parking lot), barked out to me with my toddlers in hand that we needed to watch where we park, because he had just called for our car to be towed. I thought perhaps I didn't park between the yellow lines (not that this is a towable violation either), but instead he accused me, again with my children in tow covered with chocolate shake and ketchup, of using the parking lot without eating at Johnnie's. He claimed to have checked with everyone around the restaurant as to who was driving our particular model car, but we never heard him. Probably because we relinquished our seats after eating and moved to the bench in front for our dessert so others could sit. The "security guard" (and I use that term loosely) finally relented and acknowledged his error after apparently recognizing my wife as eating at one of the tables. But, we did not get a word of apology, despite the fact that a tow-truck was apparently already on its way.
Bottom line: Great beef (if it were served warmer), but everything else left much to be desired. I would not run back. Maybe my expectations were too high in light of all the hype, but I don't think so.
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