After a family dinner at a restaurant that looked as though it was decorated by crew of color-blind grade-schoolers, my regular dining companion (the I.T. Guy) turned to me and sotto voce said angrily, "I hate theme restaurants." So, it was with some hesitation that I invited him to be my date for lunch at Donnie Mac's Trailer Park Cuisine. I hadn't been there before, but based on the exterior of the building, I surmised that the interior would be anything but austere. I was not wrong.
We got to Donnie Mac's on a Thursday afternoon and the harried but friendly hostess informed us it would be a 15- to 20-minute wait unless we wanted to sit in the back room or at the bar. In the back room, the seating options are old couches, love seats and wing-back chairs, and meals are eaten off of coffee and end tables. At the bar, the "stools" are small saddles on springy, half-moon metal bases. For a brief moment, I had The Shining: I was splayed on the floor after having leaned too far back in one of the saddles, and everyone in the packed place was pointing and laughing at me. Saddle seating? No, thanks.
Just then Harried the Hostess noticed a couple leaving, and we were soon seated in cool chrome chairs at a table covered in a colorful flowered vinyl tablecloth. The booths are old car bench seats covered in brightly colored Naugahyde, festive plastic shower curtains separate the servers' station and right in the middle of the restaurant on a platform is the body of an old car with a table and chairs in the cab. There is a theme, but instead of looking like they opened the roof and unloaded a dumptruck full of thrift-store items, every design accessory looks intentional and whole place is cheery and very clean. I did hope, though, that when I opened the menu, I wouldn't be faced with a choice of Spam sandwiches or Vienna sausage casserole. I needn't have worried.
The menu at Donnie Mac's is sparse but fine. The I.T. Guy ordered a B.L.T. (with peppered bacon on ciabatta bread) and regular fries, and I got the macaroni and cheese with a cut-up hot dog on the side just like Mom used to make (it's actually on the menu!) with sweet potato fries and sweet fry sauce. The mac and cheese was to die for. It was savory and real-cheese cheesy, and a forkful of that with a slice of 'dog was a mouth-watering, delicious little bite of Americana. The sweet dip for the fries wasn't exactly my cup of sauce, but was unique and tasty (you'll have to order it yourself to find out what it's made of), and the sweet potato fries were thin and crispy and worth going back for. My date let me taste his sandwich (OK, I made him) and it made me wish I had room to order one for myself. Since we spent less than 20 bucks and less than an hour, we'll go back. But I still won't sit at the bar.
Amy Atkins will never heed the phrase, "Saddle up!"
Donnie Mac's Trailer Park Cuisine, 1515 W. Grove St., 384-9008. Mon.-Fri.: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat.-Sun.: 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m.