Lunch at Donna’s Café at “Cross Keys” in the past has been enjoyable and motivated us to try it for dinner. It has a contemporary feel with 20+ tables under timbered cathedral ceilings and long walls of windows facing out on their patio (with as many tables as inside, it’s pleasant for dining outside when weather allows). While casual at lunchtime, dinnertime is more formal with white linens and flowers on the tables with overhead lighting from rows of white globes and strings of fairy lights along the windows.
While we enjoyed complementary French bread and crackers served with a mild red pepper spread, we were taken back a bit to find that the dinner menu was more expensive than we would have expected from our lunch experiences. The dinner menu has ten entrees ($18 – $30), ten appetizers ($7 – $15), a few soups ($7), two entrée salads ($16-$18), three personal pizzas ($8 – $12) and four side dishes ($4 – $7). The only sandwich and least expensive main dinner course was a Kobe Burger – which at $18 for a burger with fries raised our eyebrows.
We’ve enjoyed Donna’s soup at lunch so opted to start our dinner with soup. Marty’s Curried Lamb Lentil was zesty with lots of lamb; John’s Crab Florentine was lusciously rich and creamy with plenty of crab (but curiously light on spinach!) Both soups merited our “Thumbs Up!” despite their $7 price.
For entrées, Marty decided on Spinach Ravioli; though tasty, 4 ravioli with not much sauce for $16 seemed pricey. John had Moroccan Lamb Ragout over polenta; while the portion was generous, the ragout sauce had a certain unwanted sweetness while the polenta was creamy yet bland. Our friend Bernie’s Chicken Fusili was colorful with spinach, red pepper, onions and walnuts (but the small amount of diced chicken and a touted Gorgonzola cheese sauce which didn’t taste of blue cheese was disappointing). Fred’s Grilled Salmon Filet with parsnips and cabbage with a Beurre Rouge sauce topped with matchstick sweet potatoes (attractive but soggy) was just “ok”. Our buddy JT’s Pappardelle pasta with asparagus, tomatoes, fennel and mozzarella (with added sausage added for $2) was the only one of our entrées that elicited an unqualified “really good” . While a side of sweet potato fries rated a ”Thumbs Up!” from all, it arrived 10+ minutes after the entrées without any apology or explanation for the delay.
Dinner at Donna’s left us with mixed feelings. While the soup, the bread and spread, and the sweet potato fries merited a “Thumbs Up!”, four out of five entrées were at best “ok” and seemed overpriced and/or under-portioned. Our server was friendly but the unexplained 10+ minute delay with the fries as well as her “disappearances” on a not busy weeknight was frustrating.
While lunches or drinks on the outside patio may warrant returning to Donna’s at Cross Keys, our dinner experience was overall disappointing and didn’t leave us eager to return for another dinner.
FACTS: Donna’s (Cross Keys); 5100 Falls Rd/40 Village Sq; 410-532-7611; www.donnas.com ; Full Bar; Vegetarian Options; Lunch and Dinner 7 days a week 11am- 9 pm; adjacent free parking; Dinner menu is expensive.