By Zachary Fagenson
By Bill Citara
By Laine Doss
By Laine Doss
By Carina Ost
By Valeria Nekhim
By Hannah Sentenac
By Carina Ost
Main courses were, with one exception, uniformly good. Pan-seared salmon hash was more elegant than it sounds. Two slender medallions as big around as compact discs rested on a mound of white bean and lentil salad. Although one of the cakes was a bit scorched, the crisp blackened crust was a delicious contrast alongside the refreshing bits of red pepper, onion, and green pepper garnish.
I laughed out loud at the dumbed-down description of a French classic, a fillet of fish en papillote, called "local fish in a bag." One of only a very few low-calorie dishes on the menu, this was the least satisfying thing we sampled. Although our waiter told us the fish was dolphin, it tasted more like overcooked grouper. A medley of miniature yellow squash, broccoli, and zucchini arrived crisp and tasty even though the fillet, which was cooked in the same bag, was rubbery and dry. Thankfully the fish, like many other main dishes, came with a choice of two side dishes: cheese fritters, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, fries, creamed spinach, tomato and squash ragout, steamed beets, or a selection of steamed vegetables.
None was better than the garlic mashed potatoes, which were flavored with a delicate herb and roasted-garlic essence. These dense and creamy spuds were simply perfect. Creamed spinach is also worth a try. The spinach was creamy without being overly heavy or buttery. It had perhaps a bit too much nutmeg for my taste, but was still irresistible. Macaroni and cheese was also satisfying, but not particularly noteworthy.
All the portions are enormous -- on par with those at a Cheesecake Factory or an Outback Steakhouse. We watched in awe as a petite woman at the table next to us finished off a potpie the size of a toaster oven. The waiters do warn you if you are about to order too much food. We did anyway.
Even after such a filling meal we had to try a few of the desserts we'd spied in the bakery case on the way in. Our favorite was the pecan pie crammed with toasted tender nuts and served in a delicate and buttery crust. Carrot cake was also moist and rich without being cloying.
On our way out, loaded down with white paper bags of leftovers, I felt very full, very much like a regular, and very American.
Sweet Donna's Country Store/Restaurant and Bakery
5701 Sunset Dr, South Miami; 305-740-9322. Open Sundays through Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. till 11:00 p.m and Fridays and Saturdays until midnight.
New England clam chowder $2.95/cup
Best of Donna's: fried chicken, barbecued ribs, and cheese fritters $18.95
Local fish in a bag $19.95
Pecan pie $4.95