It seems that each year, diners look more and more at East Boston as a place to get ethnic food, with an array of options available that includes Mexican, Central American, South American, Southeast Asian, and South Asian cuisine. But Eastie still has some old-school diners and Italian-American restaurants mixed in with the ethnic eateries, including a bustling--and surprisingly spacious--breakfast and lunch spot called Donna's, which resides in Orient Heights, a somewhat lesser-traveled section of East Boston a short distance from the Revere and Winthrop borders.
Donna's is located in the heart of Orients Heights on a stretch of Saratoga Street that has what few sections of Boston seem to have (head-in parking). This, plus the fact that this short part of Saratoga has a median strip with parking on both sides of the divider, helps give the area an old-fashioned feel that has a somewhat less-hustled pace than other neighborhood centers within the city. The restaurant sits in a squat one-story building that doesn't look overly large, but the interior has lots of room, with a dining area in the front that has several rows of seating, a counter section to the right that has a few chairs, and a large open kitchen that stretches far back into the space. The restaurant is certainly a family-friendly spot, with one giveaway being a dinosaur mural behind the counter and murals with characters from Disney's Aladdin and The Little Mermaid movies in the main dining area. Because Donna's has so much seating--and because it seems that Donna herself seems to run a very tight ship with a staff that is polite, friendly, and extremely efficient--makes it fairly easy to get a table here, even on weekend mornings.
While the food at Donna's tends to be a bit better than what you might expect at a neighborhood breakfast and lunch spot (including nice plate presentations), don't expect many surprises on the menu here; all the usual suspects can be found at this dining spot, including a variety of breakfast plates as well as coffee that's just a bit on the strong side (and definitely not gourmet), omelets, eggs benedict (one of the most popular items here), waffles (the chocolate waffles are particularly good), French toast, pancakes, corned beef hash (a must if you like hash with a crunchy crust), home fries (buttery, tender, and moist), toast, and muffins. One of the more popular dishes here is the JR's House Special, which includes two eggs, home fries mixed with roasted red peppers and onions, scali bread, and Italian sausage of the kind that you only seem to find in old-fashioned Italian restaurants in and around Boston. And while breakfast is served all day (and is in fact the only option on Sundays), sandwiches such as burgers, steak and cheese, and hot dogs, along with items off the grill such as steak tips, are offered here. Prices at Donna's are mostly reasonable--though you can definitely surpass the $10 mark, especially if you do a combination breakfast plate--and as mentioned earlier, service is quick, efficient, friendly, and professional. The noise level can be a bit of a problem when Donna's is busy, but breakfast joints generally aren't known as places to go for quiet conversation, so for most people, this shouldn't be much of an issue.
Donna's Restaurant is not a well-known place at all outside of East Boston, perhaps because it is located further up in the neighborhood away from many of the other dining spots (which tend to be closer to Central Square and Maverick Square)--or maybe because Eastie is often seen as a place to go for ethnic fare. Whatever the reason, don't miss this hidden gem if you like old-fashioned breakfast joints that serve classic American grub at decent prices.
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