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“You may be charged by the bite”
Review of Johnny's Bistro on Main - CLOSED

Johnny's Bistro on Main
Price range: $10 - $20
Dining options: Lunch, Dinner
Restaurant details
Dining options: Lunch, Dinner
Reviewed December 24, 2013

Located on the main street through historic Ellicott City, this cafe looked like a cute place to stop and a good option between a sandwich shop and a sit-down restaurant. We were seated by a friendly hostess who handed us menus, but then were told we had to order at the window in the back. Odd to have to stand in line and pre-pay for food.
The mushroom soup was tasty, the panini was good, but the grilled salmon over greens was gross. We each took a bite, and something was definitely off. Here's where things get strange...
We asked the waitress to replace our $14 salad with the $8 hummus platter. Since we had to prepay, we decided to not make a big deal about getting a credit. We enjoyed the hummus, meager portion that it was, but were surprised when the waitress brought us a bill. "What is this for?" we asked. We were told that since we ordered hummus, we were being charged -- but we had returned the inedible and more expensive salad?? After much ado, which included the owner yelling at the server in the kitchen, we were told that we would be charged $5 for our 2 bites of fish. Ummm, OK. Weird. But since we had already written off the cost, that was fine. So it was essentially a wash, and we left.
No sooner had the door closed behind us than the owner came running out onto the street asking us where we were going. He accused us of leaving without paying the bill. This was a very uncomfortable conversation to be having out in the street, in plain sight of patrons and passersby. But after explaining the situation, we emphasized that in fact we were owed $1. At this point we didn't care about the buck, we just wanted to go our way and never return. When he realized his error, the owner was apologetic but blamed the mistake on his staff. Truly not a man in the holiday spirit.
Bottom line: after reading some of the other reviews, our experience was not the only one like it. No need to stand in line to order food, no need to risk being charged by the bite for the kitchen's mistakes, no need to be berated by the owner. Eat somewhere else!

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1  Thank IlanDC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviews (98)
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50 - 54 of 98 reviews

Reviewed December 2, 2013

We had wanted to try Johnny's on our first trip back to the area and finally made it. The attraction was the varied and interesting menu. There are pizzas, varied sandwich choices, daily soups, specials and entrees. Since we all like different things this was a perfect choice. They gave us a sample of the soup and chili of the day. What a great upsell maneuver..it worked. We decided on a starter of chili, followed by a Kobe Burger and Flank Steak sandwich. All 3 were very good. The burger was very good...and we just wished the menu had more types offered. In such a big burger town, you would think they would offer burgers as their own food group....as: Soups, Salads, Burgers, Entrees etc.
The other critique we had was the lighting is very low and even though they were open, we could not tell from the street. We were seated in the back and there were lamps with low wattage bulbs that made it very difficult to see. If this were a bar where romance was the goal it would be fine, but not to eat and socialize. A server comes around, gives you your menu choices, then directs you to order at a window, then your food is brought to you when ready. Although somewhat efficient, since the tab is paid first, it does not give the diner the opportunity to gauge the service to come and tip adequately. Tweak the burger choices and put in 60 watt bulbs and we'll be back.

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Thank gavin m
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 16, 2013

A fantastic experience. Everything was perfect as far as the food. The servers were too anxious to be helpful but they were young. It's hard to complain about trying too hard.

I had the Gobbler which is a panini with turkey, brie, greens and pesto. Perfect combination and wonderful, crisp bread. And the homemade slaw was fantastic. Vinegar base versus mayo made it lighter and a good compliment to the meal. The owner Johnny came out to check on the diners and seemed genuinely interested in how we liked the meal. His recommendation to try the bread pudding with bourbon sauce was spot on. The best I've ever had. It was also made there.

I will make a point to come back at my next opportunity.

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Thank Scott G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 1, 2013

Our first time to Ellicott City, MD - 6 friends getting together - looking for a good place to relax and have simple dinner but good food - we were greeted by a very warm welcome - gentleman behind the kitchen counter - not realizing he is the 'Johnny' (owner). Pizza was amazing!!! but bread pudding and crème brulee - the best!!!!
Highly recommended!!!! right on the Main St.

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Thank emmadeguzman
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 22, 2013

I've lived in the area for over 10 years and passed the place lots but never went in. It was outstanding. Things I liked lots: wife loved the homemade sangria, they had a decent beer list, and food was very very good. I had the clam chowder and stuffed mushroom tapas. Superb. My wife had a panini. It was very good, too (I ate half). Place was spotless, and lots of attention paid to detail in decorations, including the bathroom. I liked how the chef came out and talked about his food a little bit, too. There was nothing I didn't like, but things that may annoy some: The service was very knowledgeable and courteous, but slightly over attentive. It was a little dark in the dining room. Finally, the portions aren't large, which is probably why a few reviews complained about price. Personally, I liked that I didn't feel like they were shoveling food in me.

Overall, this place is a gem. I don't know how I overlooked it and will go back.

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Thank amyanderic1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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