HOME > Chowhound > Outer Boroughs >

donovan's burger - short note

bigjeff May 22, 2007 06:58 AM

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.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. w
    Widmark RE: bigjeff May 22, 2007 07:09 AM

    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. h
      HLing RE: bigjeff May 22, 2007 08:27 AM

      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
        bigjeff RE: HLing May 22, 2007 08:59 AM

        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
          mrnyc RE: HLing May 22, 2007 09:32 AM

          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
            stuartlafonda RE: mrnyc May 22, 2007 09:35 AM

            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
            livetotravel RE: HLing May 22, 2007 11:49 AM

            Molly's - as good as anyplace on both scores

          3. jason carey RE: bigjeff May 22, 2007 09:06 AM

            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
              joekarten RE: jason carey May 22, 2007 09:34 AM

              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
                Widmark RE: joekarten May 22, 2007 09:48 AM

                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
                  bigjeff RE: joekarten May 22, 2007 11:00 AM

                  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
                    stuartlafonda RE: joekarten May 22, 2007 12:19 PM

                    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
                      Woodside Al RE: joekarten May 22, 2007 12:48 PM

                      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
                        hatless RE: Woodside Al May 22, 2007 01:27 PM

                        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. JH Jill RE: bigjeff May 22, 2007 09:32 AM

                    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
                      bigjeff RE: JH Jill May 22, 2007 10:56 AM

                      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
                        slynnkiino RE: bigjeff May 25, 2007 09:32 AM

                        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. c
                      Cara1 RE: bigjeff May 24, 2007 01:41 PM

                      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
                        Mike V RE: Cara1 May 24, 2007 06:40 PM

                        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
                          bigjeff RE: Mike V May 25, 2007 09:18 AM

                          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
                            Cara1 RE: Mike V May 26, 2007 04:20 PM

                            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!

                        2. driggs RE: bigjeff Nov 5, 2007 06:46 AM

                          Finally got to this place. I have to say, not sure what the hype is about. I mean it clearly got lucky at some point and scored a #1; and once you get that it kind of feeds of itself.
                          It was a fine burger, but very plain. I agree with others, some salt was needed. And the lettuce and tomatoe where not really all that fresh. The pub itself is very nice, a good Guiness, but most of the woodside irish bars have that.

                          It was cheap, I will give it that. They could of raised the price given all the press.
                          I am glad for them, its nice to see an old place get some press; but really, number one in this massive city is a very very high mark.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: driggs
                            dark knight RE: driggs Nov 5, 2007 07:51 AM

                            I'm still confused about the OP wondering if it's as good as Shake Shack?

                            But I'm posting here because I heard that Donovan's has closed - that it was bought out and is going to be (or has been) reopened by the new owner. Wonder if the burgers will be as good? Has this already happened?

                            1. re: dark knight
                              driggs RE: dark knight Nov 5, 2007 08:10 AM

                              well the woodside location was certainly open last night. Filled to the max with Pats fans

                              1. re: dark knight
                                welle RE: dark knight Nov 5, 2007 09:44 AM

                                I heard they sold only the Bayside location, which has reopened, but the cooks stayed the same.

                                1. re: welle
                                  dark knight RE: welle Nov 5, 2007 09:54 AM

                                  Oh ok - that makes sense as the person I heard it from was from Bayside. I actually didn't realize there were two locations. Thanks.

                                  1. re: dark knight
                                    squirrelly_wrath RE: dark knight Nov 6, 2007 11:36 AM

                                    I've had great burgers at Donovan's and I've had crappy burgers. I always order it medium-rare and on one or two occasions it had that nasty, livery taste to it.

                            Show Hidden Posts