Saturday, March 26, 2016


In my experience, Mr. Donahue's wins the prize for smallest, full-service restaurant in New York.  (This is completely unverified.)  There are six available stools at the bar, and a tiny table near the front window that should seat two, is set to seat four, but has been used to accommodate five.  This is a stretch.  Or a squish, rather, but it's all part of the charm.  Those tables are set with paper doilies and vintage silverware, the shiny butter knives sharpened to steak-knife precision to serve double-duty, another unique way of adapting to the close
 quarters.  Mr. Donahue's doesn't take reservations, but Little Miss Follow the Chef doesn't wait in lines; she will, however, pull a blue hair, which is precisely the recommended plan of action if you want to partake of this little nook.  And you do, in fact, want to partake.  Basically a store front, I would guess the whole dining area is probably less than 200 square feet.  And like I stated above, maximum capacity is ten stomachs, so getting there for a five or five-thirty supper not only almost guarantees your seat, it guarantees that this succinct little gem might turn a few more tables, which is going to be crucial, conceivably, to keep it up and running.

The menu might be just every-so-slightly larger than the restaurant itself, but your choices are still relegated to five "Mains", that come with a choice of sauce and side.  Vegetarians, be damned: they are all animal protein.  That said, the sides offer a lot of interest (I suppose you could make up a meal of them if necessary), so cough up the extra $7 and try more than your allotted accompaniment: you're eating dinner at five o'clock, after all- you have plenty of time to digest.  Pickled beets are better as a starter, anyways.  They are assertively pickley and require both the generous dollop of milky goat cheese to cut the bite, as well as a little time before your main arrives to relax the pucker of your palate.  They get things off to a great start, though.  Another easy choice to make is your beverage.  The wine list consists of an entire four options: bubbly, white, red and beer.  So my white (Domaine Agnes et Renee Mosse Magic of Juju '14), as alluringly as it was named and described, didn't quite live up, making me wish I'd gone with the fizzy Gruner (Szigeti Gruner Veltliner Brut "11).  The red John Paul Dubost Gamay Brouilly '14 was smooth and drinkable. 

Lilliputian as this space is, I saw pretty much all the Main options even if I didn't get to taste them.  The Swedish meatballs smelled heavenly.  A repeat visit might be elicited by them.  Roast beef "Served Medium" looks rare to me, but is a significant piece of meat.  The Rotisserie Chicken was so magnificently tender it barely held on to the bones that supported it, rich and juicy.  Loved it with the Classic Gravy, but the Mushroom Marsala would be awesome with it as well... much better than with the Broiled Porgy,
 which got really sogged out by the brothy sauce.  Porgy isn't that sturdy to begin with, and the thin Marsala gave great flavor but basically dissolved it.  A thicker sauce, like Spicy Avocado, might be of a more cooperative consistency.  Regardless of what you order, though, don't skip the Jerk Mushrooms, tender buttons kissed with warming Jamaican spices- a little sweet, a little peppery, and a lot good.  The vegetable medley tripped me up a bit, because on the website that very same day, it featured chard, brussels and squash, but in practice it was chard, asparagus and purple
carrots.  With the brussels sprout carrot pulled out from under me, they set themselves up for disappointment, but these vegs still held a lot of appeal.  Each uniquely seasoned, a bit pickly or a bit spicy, all justly salty and worked in great synergy with any of the Mains and their Sauces.

And don't you dare leave without dessert.  While the root beer float is delightful in its nostalgia, it is the Banana Rum Pudding that Mr. Donahue would not let you escape without trying.   Mr. Donahue, by the way, is the owner's grandfather, or was, rather.  A New York city cop, Irish-born and married to Rose, whose namesake flowers adorn the restaurant.  Maybe it was her recipe, or a family favorite, but in any case, a simple little retro dessert I would normally look over is almost baffling wonderful.  The pudding itself is blissfully cool, dreamily creamy and profoundly fruity, better than any banana I've ever tasted.  And the banana slices that flank the glass coupe are just as good, bruleed with brown sugar and capped with a fluffy spiral of freshly whipped cream.  There is even a cherry on top, as if all of Mr. Donahue's itself wasn't already the cherry on top.

 203 Mott Street
tel  1.646.850.9480

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