Lunch at Donna’s Café at Cross Keys has been enjoyable for lunch in the past, and that 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 the patio (which is pleasant for outside dining when weather allows). While casual at lunchtime, dinnertime is more formal with white linens, flowers on the tables, and overhead lighting from rows of white globes and strings of lights along the windows.

We enjoyed complementary French bread and crackers served with a mild red pepper spread, but we were a bit surprised to find that the dinner menu was more expensive than we would have expected (FYI – Donna’s doesn’t provide lunch or dinner menus on their website). The dinner menu has ten entrees ($16-28), ten appetizers ($5-13), a few soups ($4-7), two entrée salads ($16-18), three personal pizzas ($8-12) and four side dishes ($4-7). The only sandwich was a bison burger (which at $16 raised our eyebrows).

We’ve enjoyed Donna’s soup at lunch so that’s how we opted to start our dinner. 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.

For entrées, Marty decided on spinach ravioli; though tasty, only four raviolis 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 fusilli was colorful with spinach, red pepper, onions, and walnuts (but the small amount of diced chicken and the touted gorgonzola cheese sauce—which didn’t taste of blue cheese—was disappointing). Fred’s grilled salmon filet with parsnips and cabbage and 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 for $2) was the only one of our entrées that elicited an unqualified “really good.” While a side of sweet potato fries received 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 were great, four out of five entrées were at best “ok” and seemed overpriced and/or under-portioned. Our server was friendly, but the unexplained delay with the fries, as well as her disappearances on a non-busy weeknight, was frustrating. While we’ve enjoyed lunches at Donna’s at Cross Keys, this experience didn’t leave us eager to return for dinner.

DETAILS: Donna’s (Cross Keys); 5100 Falls Rd/40 Village Sq. 410-532-7611. Lunch and dinner 7 days/week, 11am-9pm. Full bar, vegetarian options, adjacent free parking.


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