There’s a necklace that I really love that I have no use for. When I bought it at the time, it was so interesting and distinctive that I fell in love with it. But outside of that moment, I’m not quite sure what to do with it. it doesn’t quite match any of my outfits, and in order to wear it, I’d have to build a new wardrobe around it. So now it just hangs out in my jewelry box.
Mr. Donahue’s, a tiny little restaurant in Nolita run by the Uncle Boons team, reminds me a lot of that necklace. It’s extremely quirky and charming but so very strange. I know I liked being there, but I wouldn’t know when to go back. The place is tiny, with 6 bar stools around a counter and two small dining tables. It’s physically set up for meals with quick turnaround, but they’re serving proper dinners, so given that plus the tight space, it’s not quite right for a date night or a small group dinner. The atmosphere is also a little odd, it looks like an old time ice cream parlor from the 1950s, but it’s cranking out diner staples like fried meat and roast beef and serving them on porcelain plates and doily place settings. Plus there are some subtle Asian undertones in the seasonings. It all made me scratch my head a little bit.
It is a very random place, and like rummaging through the sales bin at a thrift store, you”ll stumble upon some key finds in a sea of knick knacks. Some things in our loot that we were very happy with–the nutty gazpacho soup, the pickled beets with candied walnuts, the creamy gnocchi covered in chives, and the very fun to say and also fun to eat pattypan squash parm.
The sides surprisingly were more memorable than the mains that were advertised. The chicken fried pork cheeks tasted like a standard cutlet, while the bland broiled porgy was puzzling. The server said that the fish was underutilized, and now I can see why. I was pretty envious of all the roast beef platters around me. It seems like this is the way to go in terms of mains. And an impulse buy that worked out really well for us was the fantastic banana rum pudding that we ordered for dessert.
Like my necklace, Mr. Donahue’s will always be in my back pocket when thinking about where to go to eat. I’ll always wonder about it and consider it in the realm of possibility, but its randomness and quirks will hold me back sometimes from actually going there. But when I do tip my toe in the water and take it out for a drive, I’ll be very happy that I did.
203 Mott St (between Kenmare and Spring St)
New York, NY 10012