When Ronn Teitelbaum opened the first Johnny Rockets location in 1986, his goal was to create a restaurant where people could escape the postmodern blues of everyday life and experience a taste of time-honored Americana. The name itself is a nod to this ideal. It combines the star of a classic American fable, Johnny Appleseed, and a classic car, Oldsmobile’s beefy Rocket 88.
That explains why during dinners at the famous burger joints, you’ll see signs of simpler times, starting with the cooks and servers—dressed head to toe in white, including white paper hats, they look like they’ve fallen out of a wormhole from the 1950s ready to sling shakes and cook up some eats. Behind a stainless-steel bar lined with red leather stools they tend to their traditional diner fare, including burgers and melts with sides such as chili-cheese fries and onion rings. Riding sidecar to each meal is a collection of hand-dipped and hand-spun floats, shakes, and malts topped with whipped cream.
A mere sandwich throw from Niagara Falls, East Side Mario's is found within the Four Points by Sheraton Niagara Fallsview Hotel, directly across the street from Fallsview Casino. Below elegant chandeliers, Mario's red and white checked tablecloths support grilled salmon, juicy steak, and Italian-imported pastas slathered in spicy arrabbiata or pesto alfredo. The doors of the kitchen part as servers emerge bearing Sicilian-style pizzas fresh from the sweltering interior of a stone oven.
Through the steam rising from Mario's all-you-can-eat garlic homeloaf, diners can peer at the framed mirrors hanging on gold walls. After enjoying wine or cocktails at Mario's polished wooden bar, guests can question servers about Four Points hotel accommodations or the strength needed to hurl a pizza across Niagara Falls and into the mouth of a waiting American.
Neon lights glow above the bar at Taco N Tequila, shining down on the bottles that bartenders tip as they concoct frosty margaritas infused with watermelon, traditional lime, and other flavours. Patrons can order those margaritas in sizes as large as 45 ounces and drink them while seated at the bar or atop one of the horses that occasionally wanders through the restaurant. Cooks prepare plates of sizzling fajitas, tostadas, and chimichangas, as well as Mexican-American specialties such as Mexi-Cheese Fries with sour cream and housemade chili. The sounds of classic and contemporary Latin music pulse through the air during everyday business hours or themed parties, encouraging diners to digest to a synchronized beat.
Beef Baron attempts to make diners feel like the beef and oil barons of days past with its menu of sumptuous surf ?n? turf fare, high-backed booths, cherry-wood-covered walls, and vaulted ceilings. Forks dig into hand-carved prime rib aged 40 days and lobster tail with drawn butter as patrons twirl their imaginary handlebar moustaches and talk about the market crash of aught seven. After dinner, of-age diners can head to Blush Ultra Lounge, where they flit through two stories, drinking and dancing to pulsating beats.
Soaring 525 feet above the Niagara Gorge, within the Tower Hotel, executive chef Phillip Thompson floods the newly renovated Pinnacle Restaurant with the aromas of seafood, steak, and pasta. As they dine, patrons soak in panoramic views of the falls and the waiters belaying down them to refill water glasses. Chef Thompson's culinary feats have appeared in such outlets as Food Network's I Do Let's Eat and Toronto Life magazine.
Wimpy's Diner's flagship 10-ounce hamburger captains a hearty menu of classic diner fare served up in 1950s-style environs. The flame-licked hamburger ($6.49) can come adorned with toppings such as bacon ($1.49), fried onions ($1), and cheddar cheese ($1.49) or in a hunger-vanquishing combo ($10.48), backed by a fountain drink, stand-up bass, and choice of soup, fries, or onion rings. All-day breakfast options include the Wimpy's Five Star breakfast, packed with meat, potatoes, and eggs ($9.49), and a weekend omelette bar does its part to rouse Saturday and Sunday snoozers. Old-fashioned milkshakes, in strawberry, vanilla, banana, or chocolate-syrup variations ($3.99), can accompany patty-centric offerings and deliver moving arguments in favour of lactose tolerance.