SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — “Dishing” Siouxland has been finding the story behind signature dishes at locally-owned restaurants that the community continues to gravitate toward. This week, KCAU 9 visited Johnnie Mars to see what makes their signature omelet unique.
The family-owned restaurant, Johnnie Mars, has been serving omelets to the Siouxland community since 1996 when it first opened its doors.
According to co-owner Tommy Baryo, the family-style restaurant has been selling nearly 1,000 omelets and using a minimum of 1,800 eggs a week.
To make the signature Johnnie Mars omelets, the first step for the chef is to begin cooking hash browns on a flattop grill. Drizzle a little butter then add green onions and mushrooms over the top. Once the hashbrowns have reached a golden crisp, the next step is to flip the whole thing over, so the mushrooms and peppers have some time to cook. It’s at this point that the chef will begin working on the eggs. They crack three eggs and scramble them by hand. Next, the chef will add milk to the eggs and once the eggs have been thoroughly mixed, the chef will lay them out over the flat top evenly. The chef will then add ham before moving the hashbrowns and peppers over the top of the meat. The last ingredients include American and feta cheese before the omelet is folded and served with a side of toast.
“We never use pre-cracked eggs, we crack our own,” said Baryo, “you get a little bit of everything. A little cheese, hash browns, and vegetables.”
Baryo said the taste of an omelet can be affected by how it is prepared. He said that it’s typically best to use two or three eggs, and the milk has a large factor in how the final product will taste.
“You have to be patient with your omelets, you have to use a low to medium heat. You don’t want to cook it too fast because you want to make sure the inside is done along with the outside and you don’t want to overcook the outside waiting for the inside to cook either,” said Baryo, “So, you have to spread it out nicely. Be patient is the main thing.”
Baryo added that remaining consistent will help the process of folding the omelet onto itself, and the cheese helps to keep the dish tight. He also stated that their use of fresh, homemade ingredients separates their omelet from others.
Baryo said that the Johnnie Mars signature omelet began when his father operated a little café on Fourth Street before it became known as Historic Fourth Street. The café served breakfast and lunch and when the transition from Fourth Street into Historic Fourth Street began, the Baryo family decided it was time to find a new location and begin incorporating dinner into their operation.
Baryo said the family was eating dinner at Pizza Ranch when they had learned that the facility was up for sale. “My dad hopped on [the opportunity] and we’ve been here ever since, for 26 years,” he said.
The location wasn’t the only thing that came from the Baryo family eating dinner together, that was where the name for the restaurant had been developed, too.
“It’s an original name that we came up with at the kitchen table – the family came up with [the name],” said Baryo, “My dad, the original owner, his name is John. My mom is Mary and we kind of combined the two names from John and Mary to Johnnie Mars.”
Baryo and his sister Leah Brockway took over the business when their parents retired in the summer of 2021, and there are plans to modernize the restaurant but keep it family-style.
Know a locally-owned restaurant with a famous delicious dish? Email your idea to Ariel Pokett at email@example.com.