Today March 24, 2022 is National Cheesesteak Day, and earlier this week we stopped in to Donkey’s Place in Camden New Jersey to show the full experience!
At the bottom of this post is our ~6 minute video of Mark’s recent Donkey’s experience
In this write up we also feature three other local and globally popular YouTube Foodie bloggers, and the Anthony Bourdain New Jersey Food Trail!
If you just want to jump to Mark’s 42Freeway video of Donkey’s, here is the link.
This is our second visit to Donkey’s. Back in 2017 we featured a Camden distillery (now closed) and in that post we also cover Donkey’s!
Donkey’s Place – A literal Media Feeding Frenzy
For all of the right reasons, Donkey’s Place Camden and their amazing cheesesteaks are a hot theme with with Foodie content creators right now. But first a step back.
Donkey’s Place is located on Haddon Ave in Camden New Jersey, close to the Kaighn Ave intersection.
Donkey’s was opened almost 80 years ago by Camden boxer Leon Lucas. Leon made it to the 1928 Olympics, and had “a punch like the kick of a mule” which is where his Donkey nickname came from.
Today they are operated by Rob Lucas Jr, who is a third generation owner.
Donkey’s is a small, thin, local bar with maybe 12 stools at the bar, a few tables in the front, and a larger dining area in the back. Rustic in a “1982 paneled walls” kind of way, but loaded with character, and each time I’ve been there its full of good happy people.
Donkey’s and their cheesesteaks were locally famous for decades… but things really starting changing after 2015 when famed celebrity foodie Anthony Bourdain stopped in to film a segment..
(Philadelphia) the center of the cheesesteak universe. But what if it isn’t?
… and the best cheesesteak in the area might well come from New Jersey.
Donkey’sAnthony Bourdain : Parts Unknown New Jersey 2015
That Youtube clip currently has over 600,000 views… which of course is impressive.
The cheesesteak at Donkey’s is something you’ve never had elsewhere. Bourdain calls it “a Jersey Cheesesteak”, but this is really a Donkey’s thing… it is served on a large, round, poppy seed roll. The traditional style is meat (of course), cheese, and fried onions that are cooked to such perfection its almost like eating dessert.
But in the last few years the foodie celebrity culture is growing like wildfire in all of the media outlets; Food Network of course, YouTube food channels, and new social media outlets such as TikTok.
Viewers are figuratively and literally… eating it up.
And starting with Mr Bourdain’s visit seven years ago, Donkey’s Cheesesteaks has found a solid home within the Foodie media streams, and it it seems like the last year things really exploded.
Cue 42Freeway’s turn at a video. 🙂
As mentioned, over the last 7 years many YouTube channels have featured Donkey’s.
Back in 2018 local favorite food celeb JL Jupiter showed his YouTube audience what the Donkey’s experience was all about… gaining almost 90,000 views up to today.
And those in the know remember back in 2018 when the ABC TV Show “The Goldberg’s” featured Donkey’s an episode… using the Anthony Bourdain mantra of “The best cheesesteak in Philly is actually New Jersey!”
More than just a mention… it’s literally a core plotline of the episode, as Barry goes on a quest to find the “World’s Greatest Meat Sandwich”… at Donkey’s in New Jersey!
Anthony Bourdain New Jersey Food Trail – Road To Donkey’s
Anthony Bourdain spent his childhood growing up in Leonia, New Jersey and in his variety of food oriented TV shows he visited 10 very interesting New Jersey restaurants.
The state of New Jersey nicely packaged the locations into a section of their tourist website “Visit NJ” with both a nicely prepared website, and an easy to print out PDF.
It seems the Bourdain Food Trail caught the eye of several people, and in 2021 globally known foodie video blogger Mark Wein’s stopped decided to run the entire Bourdain New Jersey trail, and share the experience with his YouTube followers.
Mark Wein’s has a very personable and energetic presentation style. When he describes a restaurant or their food… you’ll feel like you are sitting with him, tasting every bite.
Fan’s are really on board with his style, as right now he has 8.6 million followers. Wow!
He published his Day 3 segment of the Bourdain Jersey Food Trail back on October 9, 2021.
Today the segment featuring Donkey’s has reached 1.4 MILLION views!
Travel Thirsty is a unique YouTube video channel in that they are so focused on the food and it’s preparation… there is no talking to the camera.
Travel Thirsty seems to of started by filming as a chronicler of street food vendors in Asia… both the process and the food, and the success as those videos have afforded them the opportunity to spread out to other countries.
It’s a complete 180 of the Mark Weins style. In the Weins videos he is as much of the experience as the fold and restaurants are.
But at Travel Thirsty, they use slick videography and edits to bring you into the preparation process. The only audio is the room, and the sizzling sounds of the food cooking.
Travel Thirsty has 7.5 million subscribers!
And their Donkey’s Cheesesteak video which was just released one month ago?
1.4 million views. In one month.
I’ve been to donkeys a dozen times or maybe 100, and most visits were during their “Open First Saturday of the month” days.
Yes, their normal operating days are only Monday to Friday, and they close at 6pm.
But on that first Saturday of every month they open, and suburbia pours into the place.
Pre-covid they would get so many people visiting on that Saturday that if you weren’t there early.. like 9am early, you just weren’t getting in the door!
Well this week Mark from 42freeway stopped in on an early Monday morning around 8am, hoping to capture some video for National Cheesesteak day which is Thursday March 24 (2022).
The video tells the full experience. In my amateurish “Damn I should’ve brought the GoPro, I am looking at the wrong end of the iPhone for the camera” way.
Owner Rob says usually there are several customers in the shop at that time, but I just happened to catch a quieter morning “give it an hour” Rob said. “The bar will be full”
So without a script or much pre-planning at all, I did my version of the Donkey’s experience.
My apologies to Kelly behind the counter for acknowledging I didn’t catch her name before filming, and then awkwardly trying to move past actually asking. Doh!
Mark’s 42Freeway Donkey’s Experience Video – 2022
Direct link to video YouTube or view below.
Links and Location
Donkey’s Place Camden NJ
1223 Haddon Ave
Camden NJ 08103