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Donovan’s: Bayside burger institution made new

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Donovan's was closed for renovations for five months while the new owners worked to give the place a makeover. The result is haute Victorian pub. They used lots of intricate paneling - dark in the front room and light in the rear party room, tinned ceilings and period prints. The rear wall of the front room is decorated in the "deconstructed" look-layers of artfully applied and stripped wall papers giving it the look of fashionable deterioration, a very au courant touch.Donovan's fare is unabashedly pub grub, a little bit updated. Classic and new mainstream American favorites comfortably cohabit on this menu. One of the more daring, and very successful, offerings we sampled was a seafood Napoleon, offered as a special. Generous chunks of seafood were sandwiched between two slices of crispy puff pastry. The seafood was lightly sauced, so the pastry didn't become soggy, but was deliciously seasoned. We tried their "Little Joes," three appetizer-sized cheeseburgers, thinking it was a sneaky way to sample their burgers while holding out for another entree. That didn't work. We tried to order the LJs rare, but were informed that because of their size they only came one way. We assented. We can't say that we weren't warned, but for someone with a decided preference for rare meat, those puppies were way too dry.We wanted to see how a place known for its burgers would do with another red meat classic - prime rib. What arrived was an excellent piece of meat, slightly more medium than the medium rare we had ordered. It also could have used a little more au jus. It came with a very fresh house salad, choice of potato and veggie of the day. The veggie, a pleasant surprise, was sweet, hand-cut carrots.Lemon sole stuffed with crabmeat turned out to be an unexpected nostalgia food for us. The bread and crabmeat stuffing was studded with bits of pimento that brought on odd rush of childhood memories of chicken ˆ la king. We adored chicken ˆ la king as a child, so how could we not love a seafood dish evocative of those memories? We returned to Donovan's for the express purpose of sampling their highly touted burgers. We ordered their namesake Donovan's Special Cheeseburger rare. It comes topped with sauteed mushrooms, fried onions and a choice of cheeses (we picked cheddar). What arrived was a replay of our mini-burgers-well done. Our waitress, who seemed not at all surprised by our complaint, promptly returned with a replacement that more closely resembled rare, although even that one was actually medium rare in our book. The burger, made from ground sirloin, is very lean. The fat doesn't dribble down your chin, which we will leave up to the reader to decide whether that's a good or bad thing. Our idea of naughty burger heaven is maybe a little greasier. The bun, a little bit less elastic than optimum, occupied the gray area between perfectly fresh and a little stale. The French fries were first rate, arriving blazingly hot from the fryer and slightly crisp on the exterior. The onions and mushrooms added interest and a little extra grease. The Bottom LineDonovan's seems to be succeeding at its new owners' vision of becoming the kind of place where you can either kick back and have a few brews accompanied by some sumptuous snacks or sit down to something more ambitious. The menu is so on-target for its audience that it could have been vetted by a Bayside focus group. Donovan's Grill and Tavern214-16 41st Ave.Bayside, NY 11361718-423-5353Cuisine: Mainstream AmericanSetting: Haute Victorian pubService: Attentive, professionalHours: Lunch & dinner every dayReservations: Recommended on weekendsAlcohol: Full licenseParking: Own lot across streetDress: CasualChildren: No menuMusic: RecordedTakeout: YesCredit Cards: Cash onlyNoise Level: AcceptableHandicap Accessible: YesA SAMPLE FROM THE MENUSeafood Napoleon É $9.95Little Joes (mini-burgers) É $9.95Stuffed Sole É $19.95Prime Rib É $19.95Donovan's Special Burger É $9.95

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