On first look, Mr. Donahue’s is an absurd idea for a restaurant.
It’s a tiny throwback diner counter that seats nine people total, and serves a “meat and three” concept involving a main course, a sauce, and two sides. Needless to say, it's kitschy - and considering the tiny space and lack of reservations, not a terribly easy place to plan a meal.
But the food happens to be very good across the board - and the overall experience is fun too.
Donahue’s is from the team behind Uncle Boons (the nearby Thai restaurant we love), who used to work the kitchen at Per Se. The restaurant doesn't skimp on any detail. Inspired by the chef’s grandfather, a NYC cabbie turned detective, you eat on branded doilies, you drink the singular beer (in a can, of course), red, white, or bubbly on the menu, you order prime rip and dip served with Saltines, you eat off of flowery china, there's a root beer float for dessert, and you go home with one of those strawberry wrapper sucking candy things you used to eat at your grandparents' house. You'll take in all the nostalgia first, but then you'll quickly realize the real draw here is the food, because damn, it’s really freakin’ delicious. It's nice to think that a classic diner would have served prime rib and rotisserie chicken this good.
The good vibes and chicken make a trip to Mr. Donahue's worth your time, as long as you go into it knowing what you’re getting yourself into. There’s the whole nine person thing, and only having one kind of each drink may be cute in theory, but is actually kind of annoying - especially when the one red wine tastes like Manischewitz. You also have to be prepared to eat a significant meal here - there's no light biting and there are only a couple options, all of which will put you down for a nap immediately after.
While Mr. Donahue's isn't the most practical choice, if you happen to snag a seat, you're in for a good time.
Best. Rotisserie. Chicken. In. New. York. City. Seriously. Bird is the word at Donahue’s, and they even put paper frills on the legs for a proper old school touch. Their bird is dripping with juices, salted and lightly spiced to make all kinds of chicken magic happen. The fresh lime and avocado sauce is the sauce to get with it, and also may be one of the best sauces ever. That stuff needs to be bottled and sold at Whole Foods immediately.
Roast beef is the other thing you should be eating when you dine with Donahue. This thick cut of soft, tender, generally joyous slab of salted beef is a damn good time. Definitely get it with mashed potatoes, and go with the steak sauce. This is some of the best roast beef we’ve ever eaten.
This is a bit of a head scratcher. Aesthetically, the dish looks a bit like a giant bowl of Chef Boyardee sans “noodles” - a big batch of balls in sauce, without much else going on. That said, they’re quite tasty, though this dish would be better suited as an appetizer, or served with a side of delicious bread.
Large chunks of very delicious yellow beets. You rarely see yellow beets as the beets to pickle, but we liked them a lot.
Simple steamed artichoke with aioli dipping sauce. A classic, and a good one.
A very good spicy crab dip that, in lieu of some kind of awesome homemade bread, comes with packs of saltines. On brand for Donahue’s, but not that exciting. Would rather have something on the same level as the dip to dunk with. That’s a miss.
Oysters in a warm BBQ sauce. We can get down.
Classic. Hadn’t had one of these in ages. Nothing over the top, just simple and classic, with a Maraschino cherry on top.