I’ve always loved the hearty Thai food at Uncle Boons behind the husband and wife duo of Ann Redding and Matt Danzer. When they announced an opening of a new restaurant showcasing American traditional comfort food, I was both intrigued and puzzled at the same time. Can they translate their magic touch at Uncle Boons into completely new cuisine? When I first showed up, there was one concise menu with mains, sauces and sides that you can combine together for a full meal (the standard format is one main, one sauce and two sides per person). It’s difficult nowadays in New York to see classic “meat and three” places these days, not to mention restaurants that are actually good at it, with all the hype about seasonal New American cuisine that places emphasis on creativity, not some retro diner-like joints paying homage to the American past. I’m pleased to report that Mr. Donahue’s has successfully built a winner in this rapidly dwindling category.
Any meal at Mr. Donahue’s must have at least one plate with roast beef as a main. Served medium, I absolutely loved the juicy and tender texture of this meat that was not only cooked perfectly but its seasoning also on point, striving for moderation to give more room for the meat’s texture to shine. A side of crab imperial (warm spicy crab salad with saltine crackers) was also quite delicious, although the whole artichoke wasn’t as impressive as it looked.
The other main dish that my dining companion and I tried was chicken fried pork cheeks, a nicely battered piece of meat that we finished quickly, accompanied by a side of decadent Duchess potato and crispy onions with ranch dressing. I really liked how, despite the rustic looks of the plates, the overall flavor was actually quite balanced instead of leaning on the heavy side so each bite doesn’t get boring over time. We also finished our meal with two desserts. I liked the sweet touch of banana rum pudding, but the highlight was root beer float, which was pure decadence even though I don’t like the flavor of root beer in general!
The restaurant is really tiny (seating 9 people at most) and doesn’t take reservations, so show up as early as possible. I was very lucky that there was one empty table left when I showed up around 7 p.m. on a Friday evening. I liked the warm, fuzzy feel of this tiny space where you feel like you’re transported to some local diner in an American countryside. You can complement your meal with limited selections of wine and beer. Mr. Donahue’s is a great second act for the Uncle Boons team; while it may lack the comfort in terms of the space’s size and proximity to other diners, there is no doubt that the food will make you walk out satisfied.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
Address: 203 Mott Street, New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (646) 850-9480