Ahhh, the open road. The wind blowing through your hair, the comforting rhythmic feeling of the tires on the asphalt, the stereo blasting your favorite songs. There’s nothing like a road trip to explore wherever the highway might take you, be it a couple of hours or a couple of days. Part of a proper road trip experience is truck stop dining on your adventure. Our family has been driving beyond Fort Collins to enjoy more of what Colorado has to offer – sometimes it’s a day trip down to Denver, other times it’s a outdoor expedition in the Rocky Mountains. No matter where we go, or what we do, we usually start the trip with a traditional visit to Johnson’s Corner for some classic diner grub.
Johnson’s Corner is the best of the best of greasy spoons. It’s simple, no frills cooking that it hits the right spot. Are you going to get anything gourmet here? Not a chance. But that’s not its intended purpose. What they provide is a plate of down home Americana.
Johnson’s Corner started as a gas station in the middle of nowhere alongside the old US Highway 87 in 1952. When I 25 opened in the 60′s, Johnson’s Corner became the truck stop mecca that it is today. Rated as one of the “Best Breakfasts In The World” by Travel and Leisure Magazine in 1998, the “Best Truck Stop Restaurant In The U.S.” by the food Network in 2004, and even a location for the film “Larger Than Life,” this family-owned Northern Colorado landmark has made quite a name for itself, and is mostly known for their “world famous cinnamon rolls.”
Even though we eat here regularly when driving down I 25, do I believe all of the hype? No. For as many times as I’ve ordered their breakfasts, I do not believe they have one of the best breakfasts in the world, and for as many times as I’ve ordered their cinnamon rolls, I do not believe they are world famous. Their food is consistent, hearty and basic – but as long as you have those expectations, you won’t be let down.
On our last drive down to Denver for an afternoon at the zoo with the kids, we stopped by Johnson’s Corner for a quick lunch and a re-fill of gas. We found our seat in the large dining area with an extra long booth. Our service was fast and super friendly.
We started off with the obligatory cinnamon roll for all of us to share (as The Preschooler requests and looks forward to at every visit). The cinnamon rolls are giahugant mountains of spiraled dough drenched in a thick coating of sweet glaze that pools at the bottom of the plate like a sticky white pond of sugar. They are good enough, but often too dry for the coveted award of “best.” That never stops us from indulging, though.
The boys always get the kids’ meal pancake with bacon or sausage, no matter what time of day we stop by. Much like all of the other portion sizes here, the pancakes are bigger than their heads, and perfectly buttery and soft.
The Husband likes to switch it up and ordered something different almost every time. On this particular visit, he ordered the Hot Hamburger sandwich – served open-faced with brown gravy and french fries. It’s not my cup of tea, but as a Midwestern bred meat and potatoes man, this was like his childhood home cooking.
The menu item I tend to order most is the veggie omelet – filled with tomatoes, onions, green peppers and mushrooms. It comes with a side of hash browns and a choice of toast or biscuit with gravy. I always get the biscuit with gravy.
This is not a mind-blowing omelet, especially since the mushrooms are canned mushrooms. However, I think it’s probably one of the healthier menu items and it still tastes decent. The biggest winner on the menu though, is the biscuits and gravy. Those should be “world famous” more than the cinnamon rolls, because they are tender, flaky, delicious and perfect. The gravy is pretty much mouthwatering – thick, peppery, savory and awesome. Why anyone would get toast over these is beyond me.
While I don’t think Johnson’s Corner lives up to all of the media hype, I do think they are the best truck stop that serves a better-than-most diner menu. The majority of the menu items aren’t anything special for the taste buds, but I can’t think of a better greasy spoon experience anywhere else. Despite its average appeal, Johnson’s Corner will always remain a road trip tradition for our family, feeding us for our journey as Willie Nelson says best – “goin’ places that I’ve never been, seein’ things I may never see again.”
Johnson’s Corner Restaurant, Bakery and Truck Stop
2842 S. E. Frontage Road
Kid- Friendly? Yes
Parking? Very large lot
Healthy Options? Few
Budget-Friendly? Yes! Under $10 and double portion sizes
Recent Health Inspection? Unknown