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Palatine's Donkey Inn part saloon, part club
By Greg Walker | Daily Herald Correspondent

The Donkey Inn in Palatine, with a vast number of different drinks, keeps the bar a happening water hole.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Cyndi Young, 23, of Palatine, and Cat Cornejo, 24, and Erica Matsushima, 19, both of Schaumburg, serve patrons at Palatine's Donkey Inn.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Erica Matsushima, 19, of Schaumburg serves up a tasty burger to Jennifer Locke, 35, of Schaumburg at the Donkey Inn in Palatine.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 2/17/2009 12:01 AM

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Donkey Inn.

Don't act like I do not have your attention already. There is a bar in Palatine named Donkey Inn. You are intrigued, don't act like you're not. For all I know, you have already bypassed this intro to get to the real meat about Donkey Inn. I repeat, Donkey Inn.

Motif: Donkey Inn, while a mainstay in Palatine for quite some time, could not have always been a bar. Sure, the inside is a bar through and through (albeit a different layout than one's used to), but I swear this building once housed a fast-food chain. The only real evidence I have to back up this claim would be the one-way parking lot around the side of the bar and the suspicious windows on the side of the building that might, or might not, have opened at one point to collect change and/or dispatch food. Regardless of what Donkey Inn was in a past life, we must accept the reasons for which it is now a unique establishment.

The inside of Donkey Inn feels like a saloon out of the Wild West, sort of like Potato Creek Johnny's in Glenview, but not as fleshed out. Pretty much everything in the bar is made of wood. The large, three-sided bar by the entrance is wood. The tables, wood. The booths, wood. The floor, wood. The ceiling - you better believe that's made of wood, too. You get the point.

On the walls, there are photographs from the Old West, and one of the side walls contains a donkey mural, seeing as how this is the Donkey Inn. The dim lamps hanging from the low ceiling resemble old gas lamps that would fit right in with a saloon.

Do not worry, not everything here is old-timey. There are plenty of flat-screen TVs, plus a bowling arcade game and an online jukebox instead of some guy who constantly plays the same western song on the piano.

Crowd: Donkey Inn's crowd was mixed, but definitely skewed toward the twentysomethings who, for the most part, were occupying the tables and arcade game next to the bar. I must add, while approaching Donkey Inn's entrance, I witnessed what might have been two couples in their 30s leaving after a double date, and wouldn't you know it, they dressed for the occasion.

Service: The service at Donkey Inn was extremely friendly and attentive. Anytime a waitress or female bartender calls me "honey" or "sweety," I'm sold. When the day comes that I am quite older than said waitress or bartender, I might feel differently. For now, ladies of the service industry, feel free to send the pet names my way.

Liquid consumption: Donkey Inn has a full bar for you to enjoy. Beers on tap include Miller Lite, MGD, Fat Tire and Guinness. Check the board near the door for daily specials.

Food: Donkey Inn has some odd hours for a bar, so it comes as no surprise that it serves breakfast. The fact that it serves breakfast all day long is a pleasant surprise, to say the least. Besides breakfast, bar food classics such as burgers, pizza, pasta, ribs, chicken and a variety of sandwiches accompany the menu.

Sounds: While I noticed an online jukebox in the corner nearest to the bar, I could not be certain whether the music (I swear I heard some Genesis), was coming directly from it. Besides the sweet sounds of Genesis, I could hear sounds coming from the TVs above the bar and conversations throughout the room.

Parking: Donkey Inn's lot encompasses the sides of the building, as well as the larger portion behind the building. Just make sure you enter the north side of the lot (there are entrance/exit signs present), as you must drive through in a certain direction.

Overall: I am a sucker for any bar that attempts to go with a theme. Donkey Inn could have gone a little overboard with the saloon theme and even its name (Old Crazy Prospector Joe's Saloon and Eatery would have been catchy), but it didn't. Donkey Inn means business. If you're looking for a saloon where you can enjoy old artifacts, high-definition TV, a good brew and the company of friends, then you've found it in Donkey Inn. As crazy, old prospector Joe would say, "By golly, there be gold in those hills!" Metaphor: Donkey Inn is the gold, and the hills are Palatine.

Donkey Inn

Facts: 923 S. Plum Grove Road, Palatine; (847) 359-5451

Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday; 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday