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Johny Banana - disappointed

  • d

Tried this new spot yesterday - pro's: fresh, clean and stylish interior, ingreditents were also very fresh.
Cons: smallish, waiter felt as though he was constantly staring at you as he watched us eat from 4 feet away, condiments are way too small and no more were offered. Delicious picco de galo (sp), tasty yet watery salsa and fresh nacho chips. Too bad the chips out numbered the fixin's 10 to 1. For the main course, the breakfast burriot's were terrible - 90% rice, no flavour and a huge amount of tortilla. Again, no salsa or even salt/pepper were brought out to add any flavour. Finally, the prices are steep for what you get. Had the flavour and quantities been there, I would have been more likelky to return. The extensive lists of 'shake' type drinks was indeed exhaustive, but for $5.50 a pop, you'd be full before you ate anything. Too bad this place did not have more 'positives'. I have been looking for good mexican for some time now.

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  1. Aw, thats too bad you didnt enjoy it. I will definetly agree with you on the creepy waitor issue, and the fact that they only give you a tiny bit of salsa (I had to order extra which they charged for), but the meal I had (pork n roll) was really good in my opinion. I did find it really fresh though and fresh ingredients are my top priority. If I ever go back though, I'll be sure not to have the breakfast burrito.

    1. I was also really disappointed - the food wasn't very authentic to me, although I did think the traditional drinks were delicious. But the food was pretty much the same as that burrito place in Kensington, ie Tex Mex.

      1. I'm Mexican and I will have to disagree with aaaaallll these postings, Canadians and Americans have a misundertood concept of Mexican food, they keep saying "tamale" instead of tamal (singular) or tamales (plural), they think we eat burritos!!! When burritos were created by Taco Bell and I really think Jalapeño, Johny Banana and Milagro are a really close example of what Mexican food is.

        Of course don ́t ask them to have NO Tex-Mex food when there ́s not a full understanding of Mexican food and when only serious foodies are the ones interested in trying the authentic stuff while most of the people stay in their comfort zone. Only because people go to a small town during their vacations and have a nice quesadilla (not empanadas as so many think, we don ́t eat empanadas those are Argentinean, Chilean, and Colombian but not Mexican) in a market they come back to their country considering themselves real Mexican food conoisseurs thinking that Mexican food has to be cheap, simple and dirty.

        3 Replies
        1. re: mexicanfoodie

          As I have never been to Mexico, I happily take your word on this.

          I do know that Toronto is sadly void of awesome Mexican. Jalepeno on King is the only resto I know that serves consistent and wonderful mexican flavours and combinations. It is far and away above any other attempt in the city that I am aware of.

          I know this by being fortunate enough to have enjoyed some fabulous restos in Chicago, such as Topolobampo, Frontera Grill. Also in Chicago there are small street fairs with awesome mexican 'road food'. Some of our very best mexican meals were in San Fran at Guayamas and Panchita's. In Austin I was blown away by Fonda San Miguel. Phoenix has the best little taco shops!

          With the enormous Mexican population in these States mentioned, they are of course at a great advantage. So I wonder if Toronto even stands a chance??? New York City is in the same boat as us...weak Mexican offerings.

          I look forward to trying Johny Banana and Milagro despite the 'reviews'.

          1. re: bestandworst

            It might not be authentic, but I did enjoy my meal at Johnny Banana. It was fresh, pretty flavourful and didnt leave me with that 'grease filled' feeling.

          2. re: mexicanfoodie

            Decrying others ignorance of Mexican food and then implying burritos were invented by Taco Bell is ironic. While Mexican immigration and thus any representation of authentic Mexican food is relatively new here in Canada, it is not south of the border.

            Long time Mexican influences on local cusine can not only be seen in California, Texas and the southwest, but in the places like Mississippi where the tamale (as it is called there) was introduced by Mexican cotton pickers a hundred years ago. Now with the accelerated immigration to other centers like Chicago, the lesson appears to be after the local taquerias/taco stands appear, eventually comes the other and higher end stuff. With a place like Milagro it seems to be starting. Let's hope that holds true here.

          3. Yes, i definetly didnt find it authentic, however, I dont think you can really go there to expect authentic Mexican. In fact, it wasnt even very tex-mex style. I would call it mexican inspired.

            1. I've been to different places in Mexico about twenty times, so I think I know a bit about Mexican food. The food in Mexico is as varied as its people. While there are certain things that are staples of the Mexican food experience - taco soup,
              chiles rellenos, chiles en nogada, fresh guacamole, etc. -
              the Mexicans eat much of the same food that we do. They have fresh fish quite often, the eat steak as well...all prepared in their special way. The people who own Johny Banana and Milagros are MEXICAN, and they are cooking Mexican food in their own way. Who are we to judge what is and is NOT authentic? There are many different recipes and many different interpretations of various Mexican dishes, just as there are for my Hungarian cabbage rolls! If you go to either of these restaurants and are unhappy with the quality of the ingredients, or the the freshness of them, so be it. But don't say that they're not MEXICAN! How insulting.

                1. re: bestandworst

                  What is authentic to the zona rosa of mexico city has more in common with the authentic of yorkville...and is an abomination to someone outside of the gilded set from tampico or morelia, or dolores hidalgo... so quit chasing the "authentic" snark....is it a) good b) has it been dumbed down and rendered boring

                2. I live just around the corner and have been three times now in the last couple of months. The service has been better each time. Never had the weird staring issue and one time we were the only people there.

                  The pork and roll was dynamite. I have no basis on which to judge its Mexican authenticity, but I swear by its moist, juicy, perfectly spiced, cheesy sauciness. The chicken mole burrito is by far the best burrito I have had in Toronto and I have looked high and low. The guac was solid (hard to really hit that one out of the park). The "Mexican lasagna" was saucy and delicious. The quesadillas are solid. I had a mango/oatmeal drink that was delicious.

                  The only negative from our three times there was most recently when my husband had a special (seems semi-permanent--on a separate small card from the menu but didnn't look like a "tonight only" kind of thing) which was a Mexican stew whose name escapes me. It was tasty, but not spectacular and for that price (~$13) and advertised as a main dish it was quite small.

                  Overall we feel like it's pricey, but we keep going back because it's so good. If you compare it against a burrito joint it's going to feel expensive, but if you compare it against other casual, fun places where you can get a nice, filling plate of food with fresh ingredients and just the right spice, it's right in line with other Toronto Restaurants.

                  1. I thought it was great, but I do agree with the comments about the quantities of salsa and guac being too small. Best burrito I've ever had, and my boyfriend loved the pork and roll. And the nachos were superb.

                    Wasn't too keen on the tamarind margarita, but the other drinks were exotically fab. I didn't mind the price at all, I thought it was pretty moderate considering the location and atmosphere. I think mains were 8-15 bucks, if I remember correctly.

                    With respect to authenticity, I can't comment. Although I've been to Mexico twice before, each trip was in different regions, and each region had it's own distinct style of cooking - hence, I'm not sure what authentic "Mexican" cooking would resemble.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: n10sity

                      I agree about the portions of salsa as well. The little cup was wayyy too small, and then they charge you for extra. Oh well, it was good salsa so I felt it was worth whatever they charged us.

                    2. Ate are Johnys tonight.

                      We were in the mood for burritos so it seemed to be the logical time to try it out. I started with the mushroom soup. It is thin tomato based, very fresh and wonderfully tasty and spicy! Served with some less than average tortilla chips I couldn't help but wish that I had some rice in the soup or bread on the side to help with the marvelous heat. Perhaps even a dallop of sour cream would have saved me.

                      I am going to return for sure, but I will definitely not order the beef burrito again. (We had asked the waiter which was most popular...chicken or beef.) The beef itself was bland, room temperature and the 'sandwich' was FULL of romaine lettuce along with some kind of white sauce that made me wish with every bite that I was eating garlicky caesar salad instead. We waited a good 15-20 minutes to be served so I am left to assume they were cooking the rice because the meat was neither hot nor juicy. I honestly can say that it was really just like Mega Wrap...too much tortilla, full of lettuce and no seasoning. For a tasty fresh burrito, La Hacienda down the street is a million times tastier and more interesting, and always piping hot.

                      Why go back? The place is nice as was the server and I think the owner. The soup was really great and there are many enticing items on the menu. As well, they offer a cookie called Alfajores; a shortbread sandwich with dulce de leche in the middle then rolled in coconut - awesome!

                      It was about 7:30 and only 2 other tables were occupied, both with other couples also there for their first time.

                      1. I ate at JB's last night for the first time; 8.30 on a Thursday - was surprised to find it empty except for two staffers who had dinner at the table next to us.

                        We had:
                        - cream of coriander soup
                        - pork and roll (due to raves here)
                        - beef tacos (really more like flautas IMO)
                        - "Aztec chocolate" - a very spicy hot chocolate
                        - lime margarita

                        I've been to Mexico a couple of times (Isla Mujeres and around the Yucatan, Mexico City, Oaxaca & Escondido), and despite JB's ultra-cheesey name, I found the food authentic - not that I think authenticity's the most important thing in the world, but FWIW. Fresh white cheese, liberal use of lime, lack of Tex Mex accoutrements (sour cream etc.), general simplicity and relative lightness. Check check check check and check.

                        Upshot: The food was fresh and tasty, and the staff friendly and clearly proud of the place. I liked it and will go back - am hoping for their sake it's generally busier than what I saw.


                        ETA: crap! I just realized by posting in this thread, I'm pushing the title "Johny Banana: disappointed" to the top. Unintentional :-/

                        1. I'm mexican as well and the only thing I can say about Johny is that it's the closest to mexican food that you can get in Toronto. As somebody else said, mexican food is as diverse as mexican people and Johny is just a sample of what you can find in a restaurant in Mexico these days. It's mexican food with a twist, with fun.
                          Something we have to consider is that ingredients here are very hard to find and some that we find may not taste the same as in Mexico, so, food will never taste the same as in Mexico, but is the best I can find in Toronto.
                          About salsas, it may look that is not enough, but we do not dip our food in a bowl full of salsa, it's just to add a little bit of taste.
                          So my recommendation is, go try it and don't think of it as taco bell or one of those restaurants.
                          If I feel like having mexican I always go there.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: almeja

                            Thanks for posting. What Johny dish do you like in particular?

                            1. Very disappointing negative experience at Johny Banana's on Saturday November 18,2006. After a recommendation from a friend and favourable reviews, we chose to go there for dinner. The food was passable, some quite good. But the chinsy amount of chips and condiments was off putting. As was the charge for extra chips when requested. But the worst part was the bad service. Too many wait staff for such a small place all staring over at our table and making us nervous. Being told when we ordered our mains that the kitchen was closing and that we would have to order dessert now - didn't help. Also when they made an error and forgot the guacamole on the nachos - the kitchen was closed and the mistake couldn't be rectified. The nachos also were advertised with re-fried beans and came with a meager amount of plain black beans and the nachos overall completely lacked in substance and flavour. I would not recommend this restaurant and I will not return!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: to_eat

                                yah it seems that everyone who goes, whether they have a good FOOD experience or not, seem to complain about the 'creapiness' of the wait staff staring. I found that too and although I persoanlly enjoyed the food I had, I also definetly was not impressed that when they gave me a teeeeny little container of salsa, they charged for more... and when they only have a little bowl of chips with a HUGE bowl of guac, they charged for more.. they definetly have some problems to smooth out

                              2. I'm starting to feel defensive on behalf of Johny Banana - how weird :-)

                                They strike me as a half-dozen young friends (almost-but-not-quite club kids, I think; I have friends who say they see them in the clubs all the time) who've opened a warm little unpretentious neighbourhood joint. It's got some flaws, but a few things -cheese flan, tacos dorados- are very good, and they're trying.

                                PS yes, superchick, they have horchata.

                                PPS I don't think they are actually Mexican; I think they're Colombian.

                                1. Been to Johny Banana three times and never had the creepy wait staff staring at our table. Does that mean we aren't 'cute' enough?! (^_^) Actually, the staff and owners were always super friendly and helpful each time I was there.

                                  On one occasion, my friend had the 'lasagna' and it was way too salty. And other another visit, my friend and I had the daily special, the tamales. I had the best tamales in Mexico and they were so delicious. Unfortunately, JB's tamales were dry and not that tasty. The smoothies were always quite good. And the dulce de leche sandwiched between two shortbread cookies were amazing!

                                  Will go back and try their churros and hot chocolate.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: wasabi_girl

                                    Yes. it's all about the dulche de leche! Go there for dessert, not dinner!