On a dreary afternoon I found myself in downtown Jacksonville on Riverside Avenue looking for a place to eat lunch. I had an appointment at one o’clock and decided to pay Johnny’s Deli & Grille a visit. I pulled into a small parking lot adjacent to the restaurant. A large sign advertising the restaurant was painted on the dark beige stucco.
Getting out of my car I walked towards the door as droplets of rain splattered on my head and back. A small black awning provided a bit of protection as I opened the heavy glass door. Inside the small deli a line formed down the left side of the counter towards the door. Behind it workers quickly assembled lunches for the customers. A man, who I presumed to be the restaurant’s namesake, oversaw the operation and barked orders and kept things moving smoothly.
Johnny’s offers sandwiches, salads, and various sides including fries smothered in bacon and cheese. Sandwiches can be made “rider” style on request. I was in the mood for something hearty and ordered the lamb gyro. Instead of the usual French fries I opted for pasta salad. A coke completed my order.
I took a seat at one of the rare booths that filled Johnny’s. The majority of seating was at two person tables, which due to the way customer traffic flows, were not appealing. Dark tile and bright yellow walls covered with reproduction art pieces completed the interior. It was functional if not a bit Spartan.
The gyro consisted of slices of warm lamb gyro meat were covered with tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and sliced onions. Johnny’s portion size was good, and it was nice to see they did not skimp on the yogurt/cucumber sauce. The gyro had a very nice flavor and the pita was still warm. The pasta salad was made with penne, tomatoes, and cucumbers tossed in what appeared to be a creamy Italian dressing. It needed more seasoning, but after a dash of salt and pepper was acceptable.
Lunch at Johnny’s hit the spot. It was a no-frills lunch in a no-nonsense place that left my hunger in check. While not a true deli, it is a decent sandwich spot, and worth a try if you find yourself in the area. Johnny’s is located at 474 Riverside Ave. The deli does not have an online presence, but can be contacted by telephone at (904) 356-8055.
Sweet Tea & Bourbon’s Rating:
 The term is ubiquitous to Jacksonville sandwiches stuffed inside pita bread, and is a nod to the city’s large Arab population. See A Taste of Jacksonville Tucked In a Pita by John T. Edge.