The Food Truck craze that has been sweeping the nation has seemingly bypassed Brown County, due in large part to zoning issues—the county requires the trucks to operate in areas zoned for business, which effectively limits them to a few spots in Nashville, Gnaw Bone, and Bean Blossom.
But there is one other place, out on State Road 46 East, at the intersection of Yellowwood Road—Knights Corner.
When there was a gas station and country store there and the Knight family sold fast food from a kitchen inside—that seemed perfectly natural. But now that the family has transitioned into the solid waste business, well, you might assume that a trash collection depot is not going to be the ideal place to park a food truck.
But, you’d be wrong.
Ever since it opened, Johnny’s Grub to Go has been doing a bustling business, offering a strange, hybrid American-diner-meets-Filipino-street-hawker menu.
Mrs. Sampler always said that the first person to open a Chinese restaurant in Brown County would have a gold mine on their hands, and from the looks of the consistent lunchtime lines around Johnny’s, they have tapped into a bonanza.
You can get a cheeseburger and fries, or a fish sandwich—but why would you, when you can get an Asian chicken rice bowl or adobo, a Filipino dish made with a garlic/vinegar and spice marinade?
Like a lot of people, Ginger Knight, originally from the Philippines, was obsessed with the Food Network and drawn to programs about the burgeoning Food Truck movement. Her husband, John Knight took notice.
“Johnny” got a food truck and parked it at the family business, which has always been a kind of community collection spot, about halfway between Nashville and Bloomington.
The menu is extensive.
On the American favorites side, you’ll find everything from a chili cheeseburger with onion rings and a monster egg-and-bacon burger to cheese steak, pulled pork, or a Johnny’s style home-made corn dog.
On the Filipino side, there’s beef tapa served with fried rice, hotdog, and egg, or Pancit-Filipino stir-fried rice noodles with beef, pork, or tofu. How about a crab Rangoon, or beef Siomai (a stuffed, fried wonton)?
Further blurring the international boundaries of cuisine on the Johnny’s Grub to Go menu: “Tortilla pizza” and “Japanese style tenderloin.”
Like Filipinos, Hawaiians and other wise and noble Asian peoples, I love Spam.
That’s right, good old, American-made Spam. And I would challenge you to find a breaded and deep-fried Spam sandwich anywhere else in Brown County. I didn’t order it, in the end, but somehow it just tickles me to see it on the menu.
And, Johnny’s has all-day breakfast—sausage, ham, or bacon egg and cheese sandwiches, biscuits and gravy, hash browns, or French toast sticks.
I can see that I will have to return to Johnny’s many, many times in order to touch all of the gastronomic bases, so to speak.
My lovely and astute kitchen companion chose the adobo with pork, and the lumpia, a Filipino spring roll.
I opted for the Asian rice bowl with fried pork and sweet-and-sour sauce, and a pork and veggie egg roll.
You can tell that Ginger has the instincts of a born restaurateur—she likes to chat with her customers and she always has a smile on her face. it is apparent she enjoys her work.
As I have said before, if you come across a place where the people are lining up for the food, where the parking lot is full, there’s probably some good food to be had. The public tends to sniff it out and return repeatedly.
This is the case with Johnny’s. On any given lunchtime when you happen to drive past, you will see a gaggle of workmen, business travelers, and random passers-by seeking out the tasty delights.
We received our wonderful oriental offerings in Styrofoam clamshells and joined the other early diners at some picnic tables over to the side.
We delightedly munched on our “meals to go” without actually going, and watched the lunch crowd queue up with eager expectation—some construction workers, a couple of cops, even a couple of folks whose shirts identified them as from the county health department. (Must be OK!)
And I was profoundly satisfied.
Johnny’s Grub to Go is at Knights corner on State Road 46 West at Yellowwood Road. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday thru Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.