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August 24, 2021

Donkey's Place plans new cheesesteak spots in Philly, Mount Holly

The beloved Camden restaurant was crowned 'better than Philadlephia' by the late chef and food critic Anthony Bourdain

Donkey's Place, the long-running Camden bar and restaurant, is planning an expansion that would bring its famed cheesesteaks to Philadelphia and another location in South Jersey.

A staple on Haddon Avenue for more than 75 years, Donkey's Place received national attention in 2015 when the late Anthony Bourdain paid the restaurant a visit for an episode of "Parts Unknown."

Bourdain was so blown away by Donkey's signature cheesesteak — served on a round, poppyseed-roll with American cheese, hot peppers and browned onions — that he declared it best-in-class.

"I'm not saying that they're better than Philadelphia," Bourdain said, then paused. "Yeah, I am, actually."

The brand is named after the bar's late founder Leon Lucas, an Olympic heavyweight boxer whose punch was likened to a kick from a mule. Lucas died in 2015 after a long battle with cancer, but his family has kept Donkey's Place alive in Camden and at an additional location in Medford.

A previous expansion into Ocean City and Vineland ended in the closure of both new restaurants, but brothers Robert and Joe Lucas are now ready to give growing the restaurant another shot.

The first of the new locations will be in Mount Holly at 37 Washington St., with an opening targeted for some time in the next month, according to the Burlington County Times. The location will focus primarily on takeout, but outdoor seating will be available at a public common area near the building.

The bigger news for Philly residents is that a Donkey's location is in the works for Northern Liberties, according to the Courier Post.

"I’m looking for a location where I could just have a window out front," Robert Lucas said. “No one can come in. Order at one window, watch us cook in the next and then pick up the next window down, that’s what I’m looking for."

A timeline for the Northern Liberties location isn't yet clear, but Lucas said he would like to open his Philly shop some time in the next year or two.

In addition to the upcoming expansion, the family is planning a biography about Leon Lucas written by close friend Russell Lloyd, who will trace the history of Donkey's Place and its role in shaping Camden. The book, expected to be published later this year, will be sold at stores, online and at Donkey's Place locations.