When I first heard the name Don’s Alley, it reminded me of a b-flick from the 1950s starring Robert Mitchum as a down-and-out boxer who, since taking a dive a few years back, has to work as a mob enforcer just to pay for his sick daughter’s operation. Doesn’t that sound like a watchable potboiler?
Sadly, the name instead belongs to a mediocre restaurant at 4601 S.E. 29th which, unsurprisingly, is also a relic from the 1950s. Built like a brick house—mostly because it is a brick house—the popular Del City operation is usually packed with a broad crosscut of older Americans, dammit, and today was obviously no exception.
That being said, I figured that my retirement-aged mother would enjoy it as well but, to be fair, as we parked in Don’s rather large lot, she was visibly more excited about the watch repair shop next door; as thoroughly intriguing as that shop might be, still, we had to get through this lunch before she could take her inherited timepiece to be fixed.
The rain was pouring down as we rushed inside and found seating close to the door. Normally, a server would be there immediately, but it was about fifteen minutes before we were even noticed. Thankfully, the waitress was a real peach, taking our orders after saying a quick hello, having had more than enough tick-tocks to scour the menu eight or nine times over.
I ordered a bowl of classic Ham and Beans ($5.99) to dry my insides out while my mother went for an old-fashioned Hot Steak Sandwich ($9.99), which was her blessed right. As I handed the menus to our waitress, I noticed that the pie-case to the left of me was looking good, so I put in for a slice of Peanut Butter ($3.79) for dessert.
As I sat there waiting for my food, I noticed customers that had came in after us were getting their meals before us. It’s usually the kind of thing that steams me, but before I said something rude and inconsiderate to the manager, a large bowl of Ham and Beans was set before me, along with a rounded corn muffin and a small helping of onions.
My red-blooded frustration began to dissipate as I lifted a spoonful of pintos to my lips; after tasting the flavorless beans however, I became so thankful that I got the side of onions, giving the bowl a right kick where it was justly needed. Still, the solid pieces of pork were strangely lethargic and the corn muffin was an unlikable hunk of dried-out bread.
My mother’s Hot Steak Sandwich was, however, quite a bit better; the rich cream gravy covered every inch of chicken fried steak and soggy pieces of toast to great visual effect. The steak itself was surprisingly tender with a coating that managed to stay crispy under the drowning, but really it was more chicken fry than steak sandwich.
The fires served on the side, however, were a total joke and not a very funny one: like a handful of store-brand bagged fries that had been half-microwaved and left on the plate for far too long to cool down, every fry was a tuber-based ordeal that I would prefer never to remember or relive again.
But, really, probably the best item of our lunch was the solid piece of Peanut Butter Pie. As our forks competed for slivers of filling and cream, this Oklahoma classic—homemade, per the menu—was quickly devoured as soon as it came to our table. Maybe I’ll come back sometime when my self-esteem is at a low point to try their Strawberry Crème.
Finished, my mother went to the watch repair shop as I sat at the table by myself for more than a few uncomfortable minutes; as I looked around, it was obvious the check wasn’t coming anytime soon. Cómpralo meh.