Our streets are lined with repeating sequences of fast food peddlers and big chain restaurants. Like them or not, they are the very models of American capitalism and have become one of our nation's largest exports, pioneers of the Western cultural empire. But despite the omnipresence and nigh omnipotence of these multinational giants, the true cultural icon of American restaurants is the humble, family owned and operated diner. Variety, simplicity, endless coffee, and all-day-breakfast are but a few of the qualities that make the American diner the perfect place to relax, converse, and have a meal or, as Hollywood has shown time and time again, shoot a candid scene.
Diners exploded across the US during the early 20th century and many would say that they had their heyday during the 1950's. Jacksonville's own Johnny Angel's Diner attempts to capture the essence and vibrant optimism of this monumental decade when the world's civilizations were undergoing radical changes and the US, in the midst of a post-war economic boom, began its decades long youth-based cultural revolution. Located near the intersection of Saint Johns Bluff and Beach Boulevard and not to be confused with Angel's Diner in Palatka, another fantastic hole in the wall, this place merely recalls the heyday of diners rather than harkening from that bygone era. Pictures of 50's and 60's celebrities line the walls and the televisions play classic shows like "I Love Lucy" and "The 3 Stooges".
Glancing at the expansive menu, the food appears fairly typical despite many of the items being named after celebrities, songs, and shows from the mid 20th century (Blueberry Hill Pancakes, Big Bopper Steak and Eggs, The Richie Cunningham). There are a few modern creations like the Baja Burrito (blackened fish, fresh salsa, lettuce, cilantro, and Monterey Jack cheese on a sun-dried tomato wrap) but the choices, by large, are standard diner fare. The quality, on the other hand, isn't so typical.
The siren's call of the fish burrito was strong but in the end the Ozzie and Harriet won out. A three egg omelette packed with fresh mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, and zucchini; this has to be the best and biggest veggie omelette in at least all of North Florida. The eggs were light and fluffy while the vegetables still retained much of their crispness. Served with some salad greens, a biscuit, and grits (because this is the South), this enormous meal will leave you full of food, not full of regret.
But if you want some more traditional diner fare, don't hesitate to order a burger. Succulent, fresh, and bordering on the excessively large, it puts many of the top rated burger joints around town to shame.
The shakes have a reputation for being quite sublime. Sadly, I cannot give any first-hand evidence of their excellence but they're definitely on the to-do list. Those looking for a more decadent dessert can choose from a selection of sundaes, pies, cake, or grab one of the brick-sized brownies sitting on the counter.
Whether you're looking to celebrate American culture, indulge in a little bit of 50's nostalgia, or just grab a good meal, Johnny Angel's Diner is one of the best options you probably never knew you had.
Johnny Angel's Diner
3546 Saint Johns Bluff Rd S
Jacksonville, FL 32224-2713