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May 22, 2007 06:58 AM

donovan's burger - short note

biked over to have the city's #1 hamburger, according to many many sources, and many posts on CH. My friend and I both had the bacon cheeseburger deluxe and split a huge carafe of wine (dirt cheep) and proceeded to eat the messiest hamburger I've had in a long time. she had the wisdom to knife and fork it, whereas I picked my monstrosity up and never put it down until the last juicy bite, hands a-greasy.

the burger? very good. I ordered medium rare, and it was nicely done, dripping all over the place, with a nice char on the outside. the flavor itself wasn't as beefy or strong as I'd like, the trimmings were nice, and the fries were actually pretty damn good; not steak fries because of their irregular shape, but holding an amazing crunchy exterior, and soft interior.

but would this really be the city's #1 burger? not sure if its beats out burger joint, shake shack or even corner bistro. and besides that, tons of burgers in various bars, pubs and restaurant all over the city. but it was very juicy, loose and quite filling. I'd recommend on the next, a hearty pinch of salt, that might just do the trick. but #1? not so sure.

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  1. I live around the corner and go every now and again and think it's just one of those things that's impossible to judge. Depending on my mood sometimes I like different kinds of burgers from different places and couldn't really say any 1 is the "best". I'm just very satisfied that Donovan's burger is certainly great and better than most.

    1. Maybe not # 1 for burger alone, but Donovan is great if you like Guinness. I don't know any other place where the burger is good AND the Guinness well poured. You can go somewhere that may have a better burger, but if the beverage can't match, then it's a little bit of a bummer....

      4 Replies
      1. re: HLing

        absolutely right. was gonna go for the guinness but my dining companion was thinking red . . . . I hate having to tell bartenders or servers to please take their time with the guinness, very annoying.

        1. re: HLing

          this is true. may not be thee best at the moment but its consistent and always right up there.

          as for the guinness...kee-ripe they pour guinness out of a can at CORNER BISTRO !

          ps - anyone had the LUGERS burger lately?

          1. re: mrnyc

            I had a bacon cheeseburger side of well done fries and an ice cold Beck's on Saturday(Great Neck branch) and it was as good as ever, my #1 burger meal.

          2. re: HLing

            Molly's - as good as anyplace on both scores

          3. Donovan's suffers from the Ain't it quaint syndrome of the Manhattan food writers. Now I'm not saying its a bad burger, its certainly good, but is not close to approaching the upper stratas of quality. Its a decent normal handcrafted burger, no more, no less.

            6 Replies
            1. re: jason carey

              i've never found the burgers that good (often overdone and not that well seasoned) and i've never been that impressed with the guiness (i think the nitrogen/CO2 mix in their tanks isn't properly maintained, which gives it that watery taste, eventhough they don't pour it too fast.) all told, i think donovan's is one of the handful of outer borough places that has been cannonized/beatified despite ample evidence to the contrary. (not unlike sri, mina's, elias' corner, junior's, luger's etc.)

              1. re: joekarten

                I've never had them overdone when ordering Medium Rare. Made the mistake of ordering just Medium once and the burger wasn't 1/2 as good as usual. I've also found when they're busy and not paying as close attention, the burgers get overcooked, but if you go when it's not busy and get the Med Rare, it's great. Like I said above, not something I'd go way out of my way for when there are plenty of other burger joints I like as much.

                1. re: joekarten

                  I could lump junior's and lugers together and maybe put elias and donovan together but I wouldn't lump in mina's into the mix, or even sri for that matter, although I know what you mean. as far as I know, you can't order mina's pakoras shipped all over the world, or sri's mussel fritter things; they deserve their props on their own.

                  1. re: joekarten

                    Where do you get consistently better Thai food then Sri?. Luger's has its detractors but they are few, hardly "ample eveidence"

                    1. re: joekarten

                      How much "seasoning" does a burger need? Maybe I'm some sort of midwestern purist, but I've never seen the need for a burger to be anything more than a nicely sized and shaped disc of good beef cooked to order for a decent price. A dash of salt is good, and is what I'd add at home, but I can also add that at the table if I find the burger lacking.

                      As for "quaint" -- is Donovan's quaint or fake or exagerrated in some way that I'm just missing? It seems essentially the same as hundreds and hundreds of other Irish bars, including ones my family has operated in Michigan, complete with a significant amount of Irish patronage. The difference is that they make a very good to great burger, which more than most bars of any type -even in Manhattan (exception: Molly's)- can manage, and they sell it to you at a very fair price. They really do need better buns though.

                      As for Sri, I'm not at all sure what the better, less "quaint", alternatives are, since the only Thai restaurants in NYC with comparable food quality are all also in Queens. Mina's. for all its inconsistency, is still better than any Indian/South Asian restaurant in Manhattan anywhere near its price point, and Luger's is what it has always been: a no-frills German beer hall that serves some of the best steak that serious money can buy.

                      1. re: Woodside Al

                        Maybe I had an anomalous Donovan's burger on my one visit, but neither of our two burgers had char to speak of and the meat had a bit of that steamed taste burgers get when, say, too big a burger is cooked over too little heat. At under $7, Donovan's burger certainly is a good buy, but I'd pay a buck or two more for a significantly smaller one if it meant more flavorful meat and some good char. I'm not training for a marathon and I don't need burgers big enough for leftovers.

                        It was juicy, messy, slathered with great quality toppings, and came with some good fries, but I'd be sad if that was the best Western Queens could muster, never mind the entire city, and I couldn't care less about the flimsy bun (it wouldn't be as much fun on a firmer roll) never mind lack of seasonings. Seasoning is what you do to a turkey burger.

                        Enough folks here insist it's great and some even mention the char and good color missing from the ones we had that I'm sure I'll give them another go in the next few months, though.

                  2. I like the burgers there, but I don't think the buns quite stand up to the burger. I think that's why they're a bit messier than they need to be.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: JH Jill

                      that is for sure; weak bun! I had the medium rare and it was oozing and delicious; probably the best part was having the juice drip all over the fries, but ya, that is a weak bun.

                      1. re: bigjeff

                        Totally agree--the meat was very good, but the bun is certainly an important part of the burger experience too. My bottom bun disintegrated completely from the juices, and I had to eat the thing with a fork and knife. The burger was a very good deal and I would go there often if I lived nearby, but I don't see how it can be considered the best burger in the city.

                    2. I'm not a burger expert, but every now and then I get that craving...and when I tried Donovan's I felt like you did: it was okay, but #1? I think not. Here's a place in Sunnyside that makes a better burger, IMO: "Quaint" on Skillman Ave. between 46th and 47th Sts. Nice little place with a bar, most of the dishes are comfort food and slightly overpriced, but the burger is outstanding, comes with grilled onions and a generous helping of excellent crispy fries in a paper cone, Brit style. (I can't comment on the bun, because I'm allergic to flour and don't eat it.) Their garden space is open out back now that the weather is good. Check it out.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Cara1

                        Cara1: I feel the same way Rouge in Forest Hills.. They serve a large Prime Beef Burger (Lunch) on a Large English Muffin topped with Gruyere Cheese, Vine Ripped Tomato and Raw Onion. It comes with a side of awesome French Fries or Salad. They serve Dijon Mustard, Ketchup and Mayonaisse. This is an incredible hamburger meal far superior than Donovan's.

                        1. re: Mike V

                          good to hear; apparently a friend of mine's friend is a part-owner or something, and I've been meaning to get there. thanks for the recs.

                          1. re: Mike V

                            Hi Mike - Yes! Rouge in Forest Hills. I had a GREAT burger there for lunch. Thanks for reminding me. Definitely in the same category as at Quaint, maybe even better. Queens burger freaks, take heed!