The problem of most dipped sandwiches is the dipping itself. Most sandwich joints will dip the inside of the bread in the sauce, getting just a taste of the meat juices. Bold restaurants will dip the whole roll, but often this makes the bread so soft it disintegrates into a gummy mess. It's a conundrum that Donnie's Italian Beef solves by using super-dense sandwich rolls before they submerge the rolls in delicious meat sauce.
Tucked between Party City and a comics shop, Donnie's brings pure Chicago meaty goodness to San Antonio, though the decorative murals wisely boast San Antonio landmarks and a Spurs logo. Vienna beef dominates the menu, with lots of hot dog choices. The Polish dog comes in a poppy seed bun topped with hot peppers, caramelized onions, and oozing cheese. The hot peppers mixed with the dog and cheese make a perfect bite. The chili cheese dogs could use some more bite. They're adequate, but not stellar, as is the Philly cheese steak. There's almost too much mozzarella cheese in it, making it hard to pick out any mushroom flavor.
The Italian beef, though, is the star of the show. Made of sliced roast beef, the sandwich comes with pickled celery and carrots, lending a nice vinegar flavor. Adding hot peppers to the sandwich makes it spicy, and you can even get an entire Italian sausage in addition to the beef. Not that I'd recommend it — the sandwich is big enough. What I would advise is plenty of wet wipes when ordering it dipped. It comes out fairly drenched, and eating it is a bit like rubbing it all over your face. It'd be great if the juice had a bit more flavor to permeate the bread.
Donnie's is proud of their homemade Italian ice. When I visited, they had three flavors, and they really only should have been proud of one of them. The lemon was strong and clean, but the strawberry was weak, and the lime tasted oddly like mouthwash. After all that meat, you shouldn't have any extra room for ice treats anyway.
Donnie's Italian Beef & Hot Dogs
4939 NW Loop 410