Jonny’s be good

Juicy burgers, perfect poutine and a otherworldly soft serve make Johnny’s Cookhouse worth the trip to the valley.

Jonny's Cookhouse and Ice Cream Shop is likely a familiar site to anybody who includes capybaras and maras in their summer schedule with a visit to the Oaklawn Farm Zoo in Aylesford. A small bungalow with a broad porch, it's only about 10 minutes from the zoo, on the Evangeline Trail.

With decor that is an ornamental ode to Newfoundland, the restaurant focuses strictly on fast food: burgers, fries and ice cream with a few other deep-fried dishes and frozen treats thrown in for good measure. We start with the deep-fried pickles ($5).

As tangible proof of a god's good grace, even in the worst of circumstances, deep-fried pickles are a goddamned (oh, irony!) delight. At Jonny's, the pickles are ideal: the thick, golden breading is crunchy without drying out or crumbling straight off of the juicy pickle spears after one bite. The breading is also threaded with dill, adding another layer lemony warmth and sharpness to the dish. The pickles themselves have a slight snap when you bite into them, the last bit of crispness before melting in your mouth. A little pot of ranch dressing helps cool them down—they are almost scorchingly hot, very fresh from the fryer—and is a nice creamy counterpoint to the acid.

The restaurant door is practically a turnstile, with new diners entering every time a table frees up. Stacks of take-out boxes pile up and are handed to drive-by diners. It's a busy restaurant. So we aren't too surprised to find ourselves eventually drumming our fingers on the table as the wait for our burgers stretches out. Once ready, though, there's barely a moment between the ding of the "order up" call bell and the baskets hitting our table.

The poutine ($6.25) is textbook: the ratio of French fries to cheese curds is practically 1:1. The gravy is decent, powdered-tasting if I'm honest. Which is what I kind of prefer in a poutine, if I'm honest to a fault. (If I'm going to eat garbage, I'm going to eat garbage, thankyouverymuch.)

Most importantly: the actual patties on our burgers are great. Fat and nicely formed, the edges have a deep brown sear to them, the inside still juicy and seasoned nicely. The freshly baked buns are also very good, light and airy, still holding up well to the meat.

The Apple Capital ($6.10) burger is a neat, subtle flavour combination. The apple has been grilled for a bit of warmth and tenderness, but it still has a fresh crispness. It also gives a delicately sweet and acidic counterpoint to sharp cheddar and red onion.

The Fire in the Hole burger ($6.10) doesn't work as well for me. The combination of a vinegar-heavy hot sauce and pickled banana peppers ends up blowing out the rest of the flavours with a biting astringency that outmatches the Scoville heat I'd hoped to bathe in. That one note is tiresome, so I don't finish the burger.

When we leave, the parking lot still full, practically a game of bumper cars. The crowd is constantly five people deep at the ice cream take-out windows. The soft-serve ($3.25) is clearly a draw.

The ice cream is luscious and velvety: no ice crystals here, nothing but twists of cool, creamy perfection. The homemade drumsticks ($4.50) are fun, dipped in chocolate with the neon sweetness of a maraschino tucked in the center of the waffle cone; the soft-serve has hardened a bit in the preparation, though, so it's not something I'd recommend if you really want that light, fluffy texture.

That soft-serve, though. With that soft-serve, I'm over the moon.

Jonny's Cookhouse and Ice Cream Shop
4287 Highway # 1, Berwick
Thu-Sun (seasonal), 11am-7pm

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