Legendary Lunch at Bill Johnson’s Big Apple in Phoenix

Odometer (Legend sedan):  146,187


Odometer (ILX):  108,115



Let’s eat.  A gigantic, cheesy neon sign with a steer on top of it was more than enough to lure me into a restaurant called Bill Johnson’s Big Apple on Van Buren Street in Phoenix on Saturday.  Each corner of the building’s rooftop had a cow perched on top of it, so right away I knew I was in for a treat.  After a quick picture with my Legend sedan, I stepped inside the swinging front doors and cruised back in time to about 1977, because evidently that’s the last time this restaurant received any kind of decor update.


Twangy country music – including some Christmas songs in the mix – played softly on surround sound, but otherwise things were very quiet (perhaps because I’d missed the lunch rush and beat the dinner rush) and I had my pick of just about any booth in the house.  I took a seat and glanced at the 4-page menu.  To be honest, I would have loved to indulge in the 10-ounce USDA Prime Top Sirloin for $18.99 — and I’m sure it would have been delicious — but I simply didn’t have the appetite at the time.  I instead went with the Smokehouse Quesadilla filled with BBQ pulled pork and cheddar cheese, which I rate at a solid 8 out of 10.


Bill Johnson’s has been a Phoenix landmark since 1956, when Van Buren Street was one of the city’s critical arteries and it was lined with modern motels and restaurants.  Today, nearly 60 years later, the neighborhood is the type of place where you probably don’t want to be wandering around in the middle of the night.  Traffic has shifted to the parallel Loop 202 freeway and the few restaurants and motels that remain on Van Buren are run-down and best described as “sketchy.”

Somehow, though, Bill’s has endured.  The theme is “Authentic Arizona Cowboy Grub,” true to the atmosphere that Bill and his wife Gene envisioned when they first opened the restaurant.  It will come as no surprise that Bill’s car was a Cadillac with longhorns mounted to the hood.  Bill’s legend (and I’m not talking Acuras) lives on and I’d recommend a pit stop to anyone looking for a fun dining experience with a kick-back vibe and tasty food.


This weekend, I pulled my Legend sedan out of storage to put a few miles on it.  It went to Acura of Tempe for its semi-annual oil change with 5W30 oil.  Everything checked out on the inspection except for a dying battery and some rear brakes that could probably be done in the not-too-distant future.  The car had driven just 1,539 miles since its last oil change on July 12th, and the bulk of those miles were for a drive to Los Angeles and back for the 10th annual National Acura Legend Meet (NALM) that month.

Here are the rest of my pictures from this Saturday quick drive.

View from my booth at Bill Johnson’s


Motto at Bill Johnson’s


My menu selection


Not a bad looking meal!


Back to the car we go


In for service at Acura of Tempe


Quick pics at the Vietnamese Martyrs Catholic Church on Northern Avenue


Unique architecture for the Phoenix area!


Tucked away in the garage with the NSX.  I do love these sedan taillights at night.


ILX drive across Mill Avenue bridge in Tempe


Over and out!  Hope everyone had a nice weekend.

15 Responses to “Legendary Lunch at Bill Johnson’s Big Apple in Phoenix”

  1. autoscribe74 Says:

    A culinary adventure!
    I could be wrong, but I’ve always thought that Honda/Acura pioneered the “jeweled” internal-reflector headlamps (1990 Accord) and taillamps (1991 Legend) that quickly became an industry standard, but I could be wrong… what do you think, Tyson?

    • autoscribe74 Says:

      I could also better proofread my comments before submitting… 😉

      • You know, I’m not sure on the ‘pioneering’ aspect but I’ve always admired the chrome internal reflectors of the headlights on the Accord that you speak of. The overall design of that 1990-1993 Accord (and the Legend of the same era, of course) has aged very well over the years. Hope you had a nice weekend, Mark!

  2. Tyson, always fun to see you take the Legend sedan out to stretch its legs. That Big Apple place sure is making my stomach growl. We may have to hit that next time I’m in town. 🙂

  3. I had quesadillas yesterday, but those pulled pork ones look better! Glad you had fun. I hope Santa brings us car batteries this year, since you’ve needed two this month, and now mine has gone bad. Haha. Happy holidays!

  4. I agree on the legend sedan taillights. Don’t see many these days but can always spot a legend sedan at night up ahead. Have a Merry Christmas

  5. Those Legend sedan taillights remind me of the new Acura taillights with the light bar that surrounds the outer light when they’re lite in a way.


  6. Nice to see the the larger gal getting out and about some. : )

  7. Yay for sedan love! Who knew it’d look so stately in a Vietnam setting too????

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