Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Small Town Favorite

For quite some length of time we’d talked about having dinner at a local restaurant that seems to be well regarded.  Its owner is even frequently featured on area television stations’ food segments.  

This is Donna’s Old Town Café in Madisonville Tennessee.  This locally owned and operated restaurant is located downtown, right across from the Monroe County Courthouse.  The restaurant occupies a building from ca. 1892 that used to house the old Bank of Madisonville. 

Love the chef statue in front of Donna’s!  It certainly adds character… It’s significant to note that Donna’s has been in business since 1994, impressive longevity for any restaurant!

This is a view of the busy dining room from the front entry area toward the rear of Donna’s.  As you can see, the space is long and relatively narrow with a mix of booths and tables. 

Donna’s was in the local headlines in January of 2107 when an electrical short sparked a fire in the early morning, causing considerable damage to the kitchen and buffet area of the restaurant.  With the community behind her, the owner reopened about 6 months after this near disaster. 

The previous 3 photos show the buffet and its offerings, one of the main draws for Donna’s patrons.  The salad bar is extensive and seemed quite popular.  Second course items included fried chicken, pulled pork, fried fish, fried green tomatoes, fried shrimp, beans and more.  Two different soups were available at one end of this counter.

Despite a fairly extensive menu, given the price of the buffet ($9.99 each), we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give it a try. 

The iceberg lettuce featured too many bruised/brown marks for me.  I tried the pea salad and didn’t like it.  What was that white stuff in it…perhaps faux crab?  Laurie thought that it was OK but nothing to write home about. 

We moved onto the hot table with the entrees.  We both started out with the broccoli cheese soup.  It was tasty but way too salty for us!  We did agree that the fried fish was a winner!  I tried the fried chicken and it was better than average.  The fried shrimp were decent too.  The fried green tomatoes were just soggy…otherwise OK.  The macaroni and cheese was uneatable… There was so much salt in it that you couldn’t taste the pasta or the cheese!  We didn’t know what to make of the ‘egg rolls’.  They tasted like they came out of a frozen food box with very little flavor…plus there wasn’t any soy, teriyaki or plum sauce to dip them in.

Donna’s is known for their desserts…and they were stacked everywhere on top of the salad bar and on a counter near our table.  Laurie had a small piece of carrot cake and thought that it was OK…but a bit mushy.  I tried an apple crisp or something like that.  It too was OK.

Laurie took a photo of this festive fall season tree at the front of Donna’s near the cashier.  A lot of work went into putting this display together!

To recap… Combining the negatives and the positives (including price), Donna’s was just OK for us.  You do get a lot of food for the money!

Our opinion flies in the face of the restaurant’s obvious popularity with local residents.  In addition to our food negatives, we noted a couple of food containers and a rag stacked along one side of the hot buffet for about 10 minutes…not a positive.  Also, it would be helpful if the food and desserts were labeled as to what they are, as it wasn’t always clear.  On the positive side, Donna’s does have Tabasco on hand for its customers.

Donna’s Old Town Café is located at 100 College Street South in downtown Madisonville Tennessee.  Phone: 423-442-3304.  Donna’s is open from 7 AM until 3 PM Sunday through Wednesday and Thursday through Saturday from 7 AM until 8 PM.  Website:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Your reaction to the buffet is the same as mine so I order from the menu or go down a couple of doors to The Patio.

  2. It's always disappointing when a restaurant fails to live up to the hype. I look forward to reading your next review.

  3. I'm not big on buffets, but it's too bad when there's nothing remarkable to enjoy. The seasonal tree is pretty eye-catching though. Have a good weekend! Predicting 30° here Friday evening, bet you miss the weather here. :-) Take care