Earlier this week I went with a friend to Johnny Garlic’s over on Fairway for dinner. This restaurant opened in 2008 and is co-owned by Food Network’s popular host, Guy Fieri. I’ve been here a couple times previously and remembered generally enjoying it. In particular, I recall always having pretty great service and the servers seem to have a good sense of humor. The last time I was here I had some leftovers boxed up to go and they decided to also give my friend his last remaining shrimp in a tiny little to-go cup. We still laugh about that every now and then.
We arrived at about 6:45 on Thursday and the place was jammin’ (it had cleared out a lot by the time we left, which is when some of these photos were taken). There was some room in the bar but we decided to go for the dining room. No booths were available and the only tables left were 6-seaters so we got to spread out, which was really nice. The place has a very open design, you can see from one end to the other no matter where you are, from the bar to the dining room to the kitchen. The crowd conversation noise level was fairly high, enough that we had to raise our voices just a little to talk across the table.
I thought the style was kind of neat, but it’s not a very intimate setting, so maybe not a great place to bring a date. My friend accurately described it as a classy TGI Fridays. We both thought the bar should have been more isolated from the rest of the dining room. One thing that was quite tacky was the “souvenir” counter, in a corner towards the back, where they have shirts and various Johnny Garlic’s and Guy Fieri branded merchandise.
Our waiter showed up quickly to take our drink orders. I wasn’t quite ready yet and wanted to take a closer look at the beer selection, so I grabbed that menu while he went to get my friend’s beer. Turns out I didn’t need much time though because the beer selection was kind of pathetic. There were only 4 on draught – Stella Artois, Coors Light, Sierra Nevada & Blue Moon (they may have had a wider selection in bottles, but I didn’t look). I ordered a Blue Moon and got to checking out the menu for appetizers. Someone gave me a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert which came from a calendar that apparently gets sent out in the mail in Roseville, so take a look through it if you got one. I must have thrown it out with the junk mail because I don’t remember seeing it.
A couple things that caught my eye were the key lime calamari (with cilantro-Lime aioli) and garlic fries (with parmesan). They both sounded good, but both are pretty common appetizer orders for me anywhere, so instead I chose the Lava-Rock Shrimp (Honey Chipotle Lime Glaze + Mango Salsa [random tangent: anytime I see or hear "mango salsa" I think about this commercial]).
A bit before the lava-rock shrimp showed up, our server brought some warm focaccia bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bread was so fresh and delicious we had another basket brought out after we had our entrees!
The lava-rock shrimp was served in a big martini glass and looked fantastic. It tasted great too. The glaze was amazing, sweet, hot and with a hint of lime at the end. I hate to compare it to Panda Express, but it reminded me the Beijing Beef, which also has a sweet and spicy glaze. This was a lot better though!
Our entrees were delivered by a different server (dedicated food runner?), who had them backwards. I ordered the Bourbon Buffalo Meatloaf (ground bison steak, Yukon garlic mash, seasonal vegetable,”Maui onion straws” and bourbon BBQ sauce). My friend ordered the American Kobe Flank (14 ounce Wagyu ribeye, Yukon garlic mash, seasonal vegetable and creamed leek gratin).
Everything about my meatloaf was excellent. The onion straws were great and added a little crisp to each bite of meatloaf. I loved the bourbon BBQ sauce, it was very rich and a little sweet. The garlic mash was piping hot, and was some of the best I’ve had in general. The seasonal veggies were string beans and pretty good, but I’m not really a fan of string beans so I couldn’t say if they were great or not. I believe my friend really enjoyed his steak as well.
Overall I really enjoyed this dinner. The food was amazing all around and our server was quick and personable. I’d love to give Johnny Garlic’s a 5 of 5, but the ambiance felt a little mis-matched. I think more isolated tables and a quieter overall noise level would help out greatly. We both also felt that some of the prices were a touch on the high side. I would imagine that’s just due to the name that’s behind it. These things definitely won’t keep me from coming back, but I suppose they are something to consider.