Forty years after its founding, it’s not like landmark eatery John G’s is opposed to all change.
The famously cash-only restaurant is even thinking about accepting credit cards in the next year or so.
“It’s almost time,” co-owner Wendy Yarbrough said.
The hesitation is not really about card-related costs, she said. There’s an ATM in the corner for those needing to turn plastic into cash. It’s more about messing with tradition and the throwback feeling customers seem to like about John G’s, the restaurant founded by former Detroit dry cleaner John Giragos in 1973. The menu rarely changes. Several of his children including Yarbrough have worked there most of their lives and it’s still very much a family-run business since his death in 2010.
For four decades, it’s been cash only, no credit cards. It’s open for breakfast and lunch, no evening meals.
But sometimes there’s no getting out of the way of change.
After reconstruction moved it out of its longtime Lake Worth coastal perch in 2011, the restaurant loaded up its wooden booths and Tiffany lamps and fish nets and old-Florida decor and set up shop in Manalapan — just in time for a major bridge closing there.
There’s still eight more months or so until the Ocean Avenue bridge reopens. Business has been down about 20 percent since the bridge closing, Yarbrough said, with early breakfast, starting at 7 a.m., among the hardest-pressed segments. The closing forces many customers to snake several miles out of their way.
And yet, despite all this, people quite often stand in line to get in.
Not just for a Sunday brunch. The line was 20 deep for lunch last Wednesday.
Judy Prinz of West Palm Beach joined 15 of her friends from Century Village for a birthday outdoing.
“This is my first time here, but I had been to the old location,” Prinz said. “I’ve loved it.” She favors the broiled fish.
One of Wendy’s chef-manager brothers, Jay Giragos, popped briefly out of the kitchen to survey a full dining area and a line outside.
“We’ve been very fortunate all these people followed us here,” he said.
A Frommer review has called it the most popular coffee shop in the county.
Out of 110 reviews recently on tripadvisor.com, 75 rated it excellent and 21 very good, with 14 average or poor and none terrible. The occasional complaint finds it “not as good as the ‘old’ John G’s,” pans the almond French toast as soggy or sniffs at “industrial-style food” popular with the snowbird crowd.
Despite the mostly rave reviews (“best breakfast in South Florida!”), Yarbrough made an “oh brother” face while hearing a summary. She typically stands at the front of the dining area during operating hours, helping get people seated and smoothing out any problems.
“Sorry you had soggy French toast,” she said, smiling at the thought of an anonymous Internet commenter dashing off to tap that out. “If you had said something instead of running off to your computer, I’d have fixed it.”
Some customers mention it’s not quite as close to the ocean as before, she says, but she points out there’s now almost twice the room at 6,000 square feet and plenty of free parking.
And who knows? Maybe one day soon, they’ll take credit cards. They’ll see. It’s only been 4o years. No need to rush into anything.