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.
Ensconced in the floral scapes of the Oakes Garden Theatre and proffering premium views of the American Falls, The Secret Garden combines victual tradition and natural beauty. A menu of Canadian classics promises farm-fresh eggs in the morning, back bacon and sausage over stir-fried veggies at lunch, and Ontario pork at dinner. Inside, colourful paintings and blooming floral displays line The Secret Garden's air-conditioned dining room. Diners who choose the extensive outdoor patio are seated among lush flower gardens, close enough to the hear the roar of the Niagara Falls, which might be able to drown out the roar of their date's empty stomach.
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.
GooEe's Oriental Grill House showcases a Western-style grill menu sparkling with Asian influences and popular dishes from Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, and Vietnam. The Asian-fusion dishes are sauced and spiced with homemade accoutrements made with members-only fresh ingredients sans MSG. Diners can wash down fire-kissed food with imported and domestic libations, including beer, wine, liquors, and cocktails. Elegant wood accents enhance the modern, minimalist interior. Though it means “uncooked brownie centre” in English, GooEe is the Korean word for fire-grilled food.