Back when I began my blog in 2005 (Wow! Coming up on 7 years of Road Tips!), I didn't have much of a vision or voice as to what I wanted for my entries. One of the very first entries I had was on Johnny V's Classic Cafe in West Allis, WI, a suburb of Milwaukee. Johnny V's has to be one of my all-time favorite diners. This is a place where I've gotten breakfast at 8 a.m., at 7 p.m., and at 2 a.m. It also features a number of comfort food entrees and excellent gyros. While in the Milwaukee area a couple months ago, I made a point to go have breakfast at Johnny V's and give more of an in-depth view of the place.
Johnny V's opened in May of 1992. John Vassallo, Sr. had worked in a restaurant for a good portion of his early life before he went to work for a food distributor. Looking to run his own place, he and his wife opened their diner in May of 1992. That's John Vassallo, Sr. in the picture above. A year and a half later, their son - John, Jr., a local bar owner/restauranteur - became involved in the business. John, Jr., known as Johnny V, had been somewhat of an entrepreneur over the years from running a flower shop to owning a jewelry store to running a Subway sandwich shop to owning a couple bars Johnny V took over the business from his parents and ran it until 1996. Some other business ventures - including a second Johnny V's in West Bend - began to sour for Johnny V in 1996, so his parents and his brother, James (Jamie) came back in and took over the original Johnny V's in West Allis. Jamie Vassallo continues to run the restaurant these days.
Johnny V's is located on the southwest corner of a strip mall on the east side of S. 84th Street, between Greenfield and National, south of the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds (see map). I'd had a meeting in downtown Milwaukee early in the morning and on the way out of town I stopped by Johnny V's for breakfast. The place was about a third full around 9:45 in the morning.
The restaurant's interior mainly pays homage to a combination of vintage Coca Cola paraphernalia and American patriotism. Either that, or they were lazy in taking down decorations for the 4th of July from a couple months before. I was greeted by a young lady who led me to a booth along the west wall of the restaurant. She dropped off a menu and said she'd be back to get my order in a bit.
The breakfast offerings at Johnny V's are not unlike many other diners of its kind. Pancakes, waffles, omelets, skillet dishes and cereals. They have a number of breakfast specials they run daily from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., but they do serve breakfast around the clock. As I said, there has been more than once that I've had breakfast well after midnight after a full day at Summerfest.
One of my favorite items on Johnny V's breakfast menu is the eggs with gyro meat. It's a large platter of eggs, cooked to order, and a hefty side of sliced gyro meat along with a good sized bunch of hash browns. It had been a long time since I had that at Johnny V's, so when the waitress came back to take my order I didn't hesitate one bit when ordering it up with eggs over easy and whole wheat toast.
Johnny V's service is pretty prompt and the breakfast showed up at my booth in less than 15 minutes. The gyro meat at Johnny V's is different from a number of Greek restaurants I've been to. The gyro meat is almost like slices of tender minute steaks. They have a great texture and are easy to cut with a fork. A couple small tubs of homemade tzatziki sauce came with the gyro meat. The eggs were good sized and the hash browns - although I only had a couple bites of them - were also very good. But the gyro meat was the star of this breakfast. The taste sensations that I remembered from years gone by came back with the first bite. It was as good this particular day as it was nearly 15 years ago when I first had breakfast at Johnny V's.
I can't remember ever having a bad meal at Johnny V's. I've had their homemade meat loaf (which is very good), their pot roast entree (also wonderful), and their blueberry Belgian waffles - all of which have been very good. It's far from fine dining at Johnny V's, but it's a spot-hitter if you're looking for comfort food. The service is good, the price value is above average and the food is also above average. Johnny V's has never disappointed me in the past and they certainly didn't on my most recent visit.