As usual, full review with photos on the blog:
When talking about food and restaurants along the subway 7 line in Queens, people tend to think of all the ethnic foods available. From Romanian and Turkish in Sunnyside to Chinese and Korean in Flushing, and all the Thai, Filipino, Indian, Tibetan, Latin American, and many other offerings in between, there are plenty of restaurants that are well known to NYC foodies. The cluster of Irish pubs and restaurants in Woodside, however, don't tend to stand out as much.
The one exception is probably the burger at Donovan's Pub, which was put on the map when Time Out New York named it the best burger in NYC in 2004. Since then, it's kind of gone back into obscurity as the artisanal burger boom descended. People were interested in custom Pat LaFrieda blends and dry aged trimmings and forgot about the modest pub burger. Only recently did Donovan's Pub regain media attention through the changing of ownership. A couple of weeks ago, I saw it featured on the Travel Channel's Burger Land, a show hosted by well-known burger enthusiast George Motz.
I used to rather enjoy the burger at Donovan's, but then the quality dipped and I hadn't been back in quite a while. Now that it's back in the spotlight and under new management, I wanted to see if it could recapture its past glory.
I usually get the hamburger with sauteed onions on top, which the waitresses always used to refer to as "fried onions". It comes with lettuce, tomato, and fries. They now offer a choice of regular or sweet potato fries, which is different from how I remember it. The fries are still like jacket fries, and I always order them well done.
It was a delicious burger. A sizeable 7-8oz patty that was somewhat loosely ground and packed, it was cooked to a perfect medium/medium-rare with a good grill flavor on the outside and juicy and beefy on the inside. The slice of tomato was thick and tasted fresh and in-season. Both the regular and sweet potato fries were good, well done as I had asked for and very crunchy on the outside.
As a matter of preference, I tend to like the old fashioned pub burgers like those at J G Melon's and Donovan's over the ground aged steak versions that are all over NYC now and cost in the high teens. I wouldn't say that this is a burger that someone should go out of their way to travel to eat, but among all the ethnic offerings along the 7 line, a satisfying, well executed, classic burger does stand out.
PS: I was originally going to try the burger at the new Ottomanelli shop nearby to do a comparison, but no longer have the desire to. Despite being practically empty, I had to wait a few minutes before the girl at the counter acknowledged my presence. When I then asked for a takeout menu, she just pointed to a stack of menus on the counter and went back to doing her own thing. The patties in the display case were preformed and did not look appetizing at all. I just don't see why I would bother when I know I'll enjoy myself eating at Donovan's.