Donkey’s Place New Jersey Philly Cheese Steak – The Most Dangerous Cheese Steak in America
I have been hearing about and reading reviews of Donkey’s Place for years and how great their Philly cheese steaks are. Considering that it is located at 1223 Hadden Avenue in Camden, New Jersey, it is only a few minutes from most parts of Philly. But the thought of going into Camden, NJ just to try a cheese steak was more weight than my actions could lift. Finally, I got the nerve to go as it is a prerequisite for having the best Philly cheese steak blog.
Donkey’s Place was established in 1943 as a bar by the Matthew’s family. But its true origin began in 1947 when a man named Leon Lucas, AKA Donkey, bought the bar and started selling steak sandwiches. Leon was a champion boxer (light heavy weight) on the 1928 United States Olympic Boxing Team. Leon was also a champ fighter in his unit in World War 1. He received his nickname from having said to have a punch like a mule.
“Donkey” Lucas renamed his place after himself, Donkey’s Place. He ran the business for many years until his death in 1971. After his passed away, his son Bob Lucas took over the business and runs it presently. In 2003, Bob Lucas opened up another location in Medford, NJ (7 Tomlinson Mill Road) and in 2005 he opened a third spot in Ocean City, NJ (1018 Asbury Avenue).
OK…enough of the background…let’s get to the point. Donkey’s cheese steak has been ranked unbelievably high in my book. Its sandwich has characteristics of no other. Their cheese steak is a unique sandwich that is a twist of the traditional South Philly version in that its roll is a round, soft, Kaiser roll with poppy seeds. The steak used is thin rib eye stripped steak (not chopped) stacked high in the roll. The cheese is American cheese placed on top of the steak to melt from its heat. The onions are very unique.
Donkey’s Place used large strips of onions that are very stringy. These onions have been sitting in a big pile on the grill not too far from the meat for an hour or two. However, they are not browned at all. I believe that it is the steam that has created its unique taste and for a long period of time. There is a huge pile of onions that is placed on Donkey’ sandwich, their trademark.
Every part of Donkey’s Place’s sandwich is unique. I love the poppy seed effect. This is very different if you are used to the traditional soft long Italian rolls. It really makes you question what the future of Philly cheese steaks may hold. This style along with Grilladelphia’s pouch rolls have really made me think twice about what is a customary Philly cheese steak. I think a revolution may be underway. The poppy seeds effect though is much better than I thought.
The inside of Donkey’s place is very old fashioned. I question whether anything has been moved since its inception other than a routine cleaning. There is so much history to this place as well and this may be the reason that you may find very important politicians, etc. frequenting the place.
The hospitality was exceptional. Their menu was simple.
The biggest disadvantage, for those of you who don’t know anything about South Jersey, is getting there. Donkey’s place is in the middle of the most dangerous city in America: Camden, New Jersey. Although it is just a quick toss away from Philly, Camden is a very different place in that the crime is unbelievably high here. This is why a label Donkey’s Place the “Most dangerous cheese steak in America.” To get here, I should have brought a couple machine guns. You drive through tons of abandoned buildings and crime infested streets.
But let me tell you how it was worth it. I ate two sandwiches today ($6.50 each) and I could have sat there all day long and ate more. I still can’t get it out of my mind how good these sandwiches are. Not only do I put Donkey’s Place in the Best Philly Cheese Steak Club but they may just be the best of the best (maybe) (definitely one of the best New Jersey Philly cheese steaks). Although they are not in Philly exactly, for now I will allow them to be a special exception to get into the club even though I have originally designed it exclusively for Philadelphia cheese steaks only. If you have never been there, take a little risk through Camden County (bring the bullet proof gear), and try Donkey’s Place’s Philly cheese steak!