“Bill Johnson’s Big Apple” Restaurant – Final Visit

Busy holiday weekend, travels underway, and you’ll read more about them soon!

But here’s a quick story about a short breakfast meet-up on Saturday morning that might be of interest.

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It’s the end of an era:  This little neon sign in the front window of a landmark Phoenix restaurant has been turned off for the last time as of yesterday.  After 59 years, one of the only remaining “original” businesses from historic Van Buren Street has shuttered its windows and will be paved over to make way for a parking lot for the nearby community college.

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You may recall my restaurant write-up about Bill Johnson’s from last year.  At that time, I noticed just how quiet the place was, customer-wise.  It’s no wonder that with decreased traffic and increased expenses, general manager Randi Beswick said they just couldn’t hang on any longer.  It’s sad that the dining tastes of Phoenix residents have shifted away from such a historic and unique place.

Since the final closure date was announced last week, people started coming out in droves to support the restaurant.  Upwards of 3,000 visitors per day were willing to wait up to 2 hours for a table so they could enjoy some of Bill Johnson’s BBQ for the last time before the restaurant closed on Sunday.  Here were some of the headlines in the news:

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The Bill Johnson’s sign has been impossible to miss for nearly 6 decades on the south side of Van Buren at 38th Street.

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The building itself embraces the Wild West theme with its cows perched at each end of the rooftop.

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On Saturday morning bright and early, I met up with 3 friends to sample the breakfast fare.  The restaurant had opened at 6:00 a.m. and I arrived around 6:15.  I was able to get seated right away, but there was a steady stream of incoming customers and it wasn’t long until they started having to wait to be seated.  Devan, Kevin, and James joined me.  Our waittress, Bonnie, told us that she’d worked an 18-hour day the day prior.

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This is a letter posted at the entrance to the restaurant.

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Menu.  I went with the Bill’s Breakfast Omelette.

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It didn’t look like much but it was tasty as can be, and it came with a side of wheat toast.

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Afterward, it seemed only fitting that we grab a picture of Devan’s silver Acura TL and my Acura ILX with the sign out front.

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Thanks for coming along to enjoy some tasty grub with us.

5 Responses to ““Bill Johnson’s Big Apple” Restaurant – Final Visit”

  1. Always sad for me to see landmark old time places like this close up. Glad you got to get it one last eat there! Reminds me of a place near me that has been in business about the same amount of time. It has always been a local favorite for fast food and especially its ice cream. A few years ago it was almost bought out for the property so an olive Garden could take its place. All the locals surprised the owners in a big protest and show of support..so much so that they changed their mind in selling out and it’s still there.

    • I wish the people of Phoenix had supported this business more so it could have stuck around like the one you’re talking about. But, times change and dining preferences change.

  2. First Letterman, now this… I don’t think I can take much more!

    Glad you were able to witness another Phoenix landmark before it was gone.

    Next thing you’ll hear is Acura killing off it’s cars like the Legend, Integra & TSX… oh, wait

    • Good to hear from you, Hy! It’s unfortunate what has happened with Bill Johnson’s. Next on my hit list is “Pinnacle Peak Patio.” It’s up near Alma School & Jomax. Scheduled to close at the end of next month I believe. It’s sad to lose restaurants like that! (Just like it was sad to lose the Legend, Integra, and TSX).

      • Wow, guess I have been too busy, wasn’t aware of any of these closures… sad

        Wonder if my tie is still up on the ceiling? Haven’t been out there in decades. In fact this was the first restaurant I was taken to after arriving here. Drove for miles at night in the middle of nowhere. Imagine that’s all changed too?

        Still remember friends telling me be sure and wear a tie… 👔

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