Before making any quick judgements about the atmosphere at Johnny B's Rockin' Diner in downtown Medford, just take a moment to try its fare.
Owner John Bach's subs, burgers, soups, fries and salads are not just fresh and delicious, they are a legacy that dates back to the early '90s when he co-owned Daddy-O's in Ashland. Bach offered this same fare at low prices at his old location on Bartlett Street for eight years. His newest endeavor has moved the Rockin' Diner to a location in the old Woolworth Building on Sixth Street, between Front Street and Central Avenue.
Dining out with
the Mail Tribune
Johnny B's Rockin' Diner
120 E. Sixth St.
Open 11:30 a.m to 2 a.m.
Mondays through Fridays,
and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays.
Yes, the venue has a reputation as a late-night spot for local rock music, though one might be just as likely to hear old-time fiddle music by Don Maddox of The Maddox Brothers and Rose, or alt-country and bluegrass by such local artists as Dan Dosier or Eric von Radics.
With all of that, the venue is, after all, still a diner.
The new location is larger than Bach's former digs on Bartlett Street, and it has an easier feel. The L-shaped room hosts a substantial stage at one end for live shows, along with a long, wooden bar, a pool table and a jukebox. Fifties-style vinyl booths and chrome stools and tables fill the room, along with Bach's collection of beer signs and memorabilia.
I dropped in on an early Wednesday afternoon this week to a quiet room with old-time, swing jazz by Tom Morrell & The Time-Warp Topheads coming through on the speakers. The laid-back vibe becomes more energized with the late, live shows.
My favorite sandwich at Johnny B's is the Dagwood, a pile of turkey, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle and thinly sliced red onion, green pepper and cucumber. It's dressed with Bach's herb mayonnaise, a mix of garlic and spices that is not too hot or spicy but flavorful.
The Cajun chicken sub also is a good choice, with sliced, spiced chicken breast, pepper jack cheese, green pepper, red onion, lettuce, tomato and Bach's celery seed dressing — a light vinaigrette that's been a staple in his kitchen these past 20 years.
Bach creates his subs with French bread from Apple Cellar Bakery but has plans to purchase loaves from his neighbors at Capers.
Subs cost $5.75 for a 6-inch, or $8 for a 12-inch. Others include Loco Gringo and Lonely Bull made with roast beef; Tuna Laguna; Lil Suzy with turkey, cream cheese and avocado; Guido with pepperoni, salami and ham; Veg-i-Matic; and a toasted Monster Melt, with ham, turkey, cheddar and pepper jack cheese.
Bach's Angus beef burgers cost $8.25 and are served with a heap of baked French fries with ranch, ketchup or traditional fry sauce. A veggie burger is available for $7.50.
Try the Cajun chicken on top of a house salad for $8.50, or the Infamous Taco Salad, made with Bach's homemade, three-bean, meatless chili, along with cheese, onion, salsa and tortilla chips, for $8.25.
Bach's chili and soups — spicy chicken stew and creamy potato cheddar — are made from scratch, and thus are subject to availability. The menu also hosts a pizza baguette and several Mexican dishes, including Psycho Nachos for $8.50 — another meal topped with Bach's chili.
Look for a full range of cocktails at the bar, along with brews from Southern Oregon Brewing Co., Lost Coast Brewery and Lagunitas Brewing Co., or try the diner's Hillybilly Lemonade — a concoction made with too many ingredients to name.
— Laurie Heuston