03/10/2006 — Located in the new Downtown Linen District, Donnie Mac's Trailer Park Cuisine has an interior design that both nostalgic motor heads and urban hipsters can embrace.
Don MacKenzie, who used to own the MacKenzie River Pizza chain, chose an automotive motif for his latest venture, which opened in the former Good Year tire store on West Grove Street last December. It's an entertaining sight: Counter tops are made from dinged-up truck tailgates. A 1941 Chevy sedan — turned into a four-top table — is hoisted up on a hydraulic lift.
Colorful car bench seats make the booth seating comfortable, and shower curtains offer opaque privacy amid the bustling dining room.
Donnie Mac's small menu pays homage to fat burgers, macaroni and cheese and frozen custard milkshakes. The place also serves big breakfasts on weekends.
One afternoon, after choosing large rocky road milkshakes ($4.50) made from smooth vanilla frozen custard and pulverized Snickers bars, we ordered a Doublewide cheeseburger ($8.50) and Southern-fried chicken sandwich ($7.75).
All burgers and sandwiches are served in plastic baskets — no pretensions here.
The restaurant offers mesquite-grilled Singlewide and Doublewide burgers, a play on the trailer park theme.
Our Doublewide (two hand-formed, quarter-pound beef patties) came on a hard-crusted ciabatta bun with melted pepper Jack cheese, red onion, green leaf lettuce and fry sauce hit with pickle relish.
It was a good burger, in the artery-clogging sense, served with natural cut (processed) fries.
The chicken sandwich was a buttermilk-dredged fried chicken breast — super tender — smothered with roasted corn coleslaw, built on the same kind of ciabatta roll as the burger.
A side of crispy sweet potato fries came with a sickly sweet dipping sauce, primarily made from sour cream and brown sugar.
With a menu this small, I don't understand why the kitchen isn't cutting its own fries. Then again, fried spuds usually come from a bag in the trailer park, too.
On a dinner visit, we went straight for an extremely affordable pitcher of Pabst Blue Ribbon ($5.50).
We also were intrigued by the thought of spicy meatloaf ($7.50), only to be let down by a thin slab of standard meatloaf topped with crispy fried onions, which were light and crunchy.
The mac and cheese ($5.75) was an average blend of plump elbow noodles and creamy Tillamook cheddar sauce, served with sweet potato fries and orangy dipping sauce.
The Chili Bad Dog with all the Fixins ($6.85) reminded me of Coney Island — a good thing — with a Western trailer park twist. In a crusty hoagie-style bun came a large, grilled kosher dog bombarded with piquant chili, melted cheddar, diced red onion and marinated jalapeno rings. Crispy fries also were there, adding to the inevitable indigestion.
The kitchen should have just crumbled some antacids right on top, in an effort to thwart my heartburn that developed about 15 minutes later. What do you expect? It's a chilidog.
The food is mostly average at Donnie Mac's — exactly what they're aiming for. But it's a fun place, with friendly service and a kitschy atmosphere.
James Patrick Kelly is The Idaho Statesman's restaurant critic. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.