It was around noon on a Saturday. It was an unfamiliar area, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to complete my mission successfully.
But, one of my fellow agents demanded that I take this on. As a good agent, I did as I was told.
I spotted the address. I walked in. A hush sweeps the lobby. Everyone is eying each other to figure out the protocol. Am I jumping in front of someone else? Do I hang back? Finally, I figure out that it’s my turn to speak loudly through the thick glass to a person sitting on the other side. I slide money under the almost-hidden slot at the bottom of the glass, and I wait.
Soon, my wait is over. The goods are put in a plain bag, placed in a steel box and pushed through the barrier so my waiting hands can grab it. OK, I’m outta here and heading to my car. I inspect the package. “Perfect,” I think to myself.
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And then it hits me. Oh man, the smell … yes, the smell. The smell of an honest-to-goodness hamburger. It was wrapped just so in white paper with a toothpick through the top. And it tasted good. Really good. So good, in fact, that it gave me a flashback to the burgers I remember as a kid. Way before the days of the “gourmet” burgers that we see in top in restaurants now.
OK — so I’m no international spy, and this wasn’t a secret diplomatic pouch pickup. But I took this “mission” just as seriously.
You see, one of my friends, Aaron, sent me to Johnny’s Donuts (on Prospect between 44th and 45 streets) to try the hamburger. And I’m glad he did.
I’m not kidding when I say this hamburger takes me back to the era of what I would call the 1950s or 1960s-style: A “thin-ish” patty, cooked and charred on a flat top grill and then topped with mustard, ketchup, pickles and fresh-cut white onions. The burger sits on a perfectly proportioned soft bun. With each bite, nostalgia sets in. However, there’s more to this story.
I also ordered a glazed doughnut. After all, the place is called Johnny’s Donuts. One of my rules about dining out is to order what a place is known for, so how could I not order a doughnut? Also, while waiting I noticed that everyone else ordered them, too. They’d do this at the end of their order, with a slight hesitation, pondering … and then ask for a dozen doughnuts or doughnut holes.
Wow, this doughnut. Lemme tell you, the first bite sent waves of amazing sensations in my mouth. It was soft, “pillowy,” not too sweet and with just the perfect amount of warmth. This was a glazed doughnut like I haven’t had for a long time. Now, my wife thought that I was crazy. She was still enjoying her hamburger (someone eats a bit slower than me).
That doughnut was so darn good, I knew I needed more. I didn’t even ask my wife. I just got out of the car and rushed back into Johnny’s.
“You all didn’t tell me how good the doughnuts were!” I said, bursting through the door. Everyone waiting there in the lobby broke out laughing.
“That’s right,” someone exclaimed, “Best in town.”
The lady behind the window can barely contain herself and finally manages to say, “What can I get you, sweetie?”
I get a dozen doughnut holes. I figure that will last us through our rounds today. My plan is to spread the word about Johnny’s Donuts to all of our friends and businesses we end up visiting for the day.
So if you’re out and about and you’re craving a good burger, you really need to stop by Johnny’s. The storefront may look plain, but you can’t judge a book by its cover. The flavors are going to surprise you.
Oh, and don’t forget to order a dozen doughnuts to go with your order. You can thank me later.
Craig Jones is a live-fire cooking expert, the Grill Mayor for Food Network (2012), and owner of Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts. He’s also a certified KCBS BBQ judge, a master student of pizza crafting and an enthusiastic supporter of the greater Kansas City food scene.