It’s true. I live steps away from Donna’s Cross Keys. For some reason during cold weather, I think of them as my place to have meetings, a dainty lunch or fantastic brunch. In hot weather, they’re the perfect savior for when I don’t even feel like heading out the gate. Their dinner menu has seen a lot of changes since I last indulged and I notice that there’s not as much crossover between lunch and dinner. That’s fine with me. Change can be a good thing. Alfresco dining adds to the ambiance.
One of their Spring cocktails is an elderflower gin breeze, with Darnley’s gin and dimmi elderflower with lemon. It’s sweet but tangy, just right for humid weather.
On my last visit to Donna’s, I was so thrilled when their delectible tomato tapenade was re-introduced with the bread service. . . but for some reason, it’s not being served now.
Donna’s seems to have a stronger commitment now to using local ingredients and products, such as local goat meat and a new local beer: Stillwater American Farmhouse Ale out of Westminster. It’s a big, dark beer with grassy, tangerine and mild earthy notes ($26). I would have tried it, but it was too hot for a big, dark beer.
A little hidden secret for a light, satisfying meal on its own or a hearty starter is an appetizer salad made with fried goat cheese, baby arugula, roasted potatoes, peas, bacon, herbed romano vinaigrette and topped with fried egg ($10). The bacon offers a nice texture contrast to the leafy arugula and the egg is gloriously, lightly fried.
An old-fashioned but coming back into style dish with the nose to tail eating movement is their chicken livers.They’re fried with onions and sage. The sage modernizes the flavors and the meat is perfectly cooked. As anyone with a thrifty Bubbe can attest, chicken livers can go tough in the pan in just a flash. The livers are meaty, but not gamy or livery.
I’m really picky about burgers. Some of the”best of” burger winners in different publications underwhelm me to the extreme. Donna’s cracked pepper Kobe burger with multi-award winning Vermont Butter Company cheddar, fried onion rings, house made pickles, bourbon honey mustard and hand-cut fries has great flavor throughout, plus fills that summer burger craving.
They had a special this week that I hope becomes a seasonal menu regular item: lamb steak with
fresh tomato, basil, olive relish and roasted potatoes. I had never had that cut of lamb before. It was well-marbled and thick like a beefsteak.The lightly cooked tomatoes and olive relish added good tang to the rich meat. Lamb steak is a neat change from lamb chops or gyros, if that’s the only familiarity you have with lamb.