When people visit Oak Bluffs, there are a couple of must-do’s that are often recommend: Tour the Campground, ride the Flying Horses, and of course, get a Dirty Banana at Donovan’s Reef at Nancy’s on Oak Bluffs Harbor.
Ok, well maybe it’s not in the top three, but it’s kind of a must.
I introduced Donovan’s Reef to my bosses, Wendy Harman and Win Baker last year. I couldn’t believe they had never been.
This little slice of heaven on the Oak Bluffs Harbor is a must. Now, they are frequent visitors and recommenders, which happens once you go there, I think.
One day Win asked me what I knew about Donovan himself, and I realized, not a thing. That had to change.
On a beautiful Friday afternoon, I made it over to Donovan’s Reef. If you don’t know where it is, it’s next to the Snack Bar at Nancy’s Restaurant on Oak Bluffs harbor.
Also, you can’t miss the yellow and green awning and the reggae jam. Though it’s a small space, it has a very different vibe than the rest of Nancy’s.
You feel a little like you’re in the Caribbean at Donovan’s.
No last name needed, just Donovan. He is a quiet man, quick with a joke in a dry tone, and a great sly smile. Not one for the limelight. I was able to get to know him a little bit.
Donovan is from Negril, Jamaica, and when he’s not here, that’s where you’ll find him. In Jamaica, he had a reputation for making amazing drinks, and was a serious draw for people where he worked.
Learning about this talented man, Nancy’s offered him his own space at their restaurant during the summer months, when it’s peak season here, and not there.
Not knowing what to expect, Donovan said why not, and 13 years later, it was clearly the right decision.
Donovan over the years has really made the space his own. He makes his signature cocktails, like the infamous Dirty Banana, and just about any drink you could imagine. When I asked him his secret, he said, “It’s me making them.”
One has to agree. As you watch him twirl bottles, blend fruit, all while singing and dancing, you know it’s going to be a great cocktail.
As if that isn’t enough, his dry tone and great sense of humor with customers is addicting as well.
Here, you will only find Donovan working. Seven days a week, open to close, 11:30ish to when it’s time to leave. He’s a professional when it comes to the drinks he makes. They have to be good. It’s what he does.
The most popular drinks at Donovan’s are the Dirty Bananas, Pina Coladas, and Bahama Mamas. The funniest drink he was ever asked to make was a frozen vodka soda. He just laughed about it.
I think I would have too, though there is some attraction to the concept.
For Donovan, it’s more fun than work. That’s why there’s music and singing and dancing. Also, he really enjoys the people he meets on Martha’s Vineyard. He’s with them for 12 hours a day, and has fun with what he does. It shows.
Donovan is a man of few words. Surprisingly, he likes to keep things low key. Perhaps that’s why the music is noticeable at his bar, but he is a funny man, no matter what he says.
When he’s not making drinks for the masses, he likes to relax, watch sports, and have a little quiet time. You’ll be happy to know he is Red Sox fan.
As I mentioned, Donovan is from Jamaica. When he’s home, he still likes to be low key, but on Sundays, he plays cricket. That’s his favorite sport.
He also enjoys basketball and football too. He misses the Vineyard when he’s away, and misses home when he’s here, but he has no plan to not be a part of Donovan’s Reef.
He’s created quite the name for himself and a reputation as one of the best and most memorable bartenders on Martha’s Vineyard.
If you need a little fix before summer’s over, you’re in luck. Donovan’s Reef will be staying open until September 28th. Any gorgeous day between now and then is the perfect time to relax, unwind, and get on Donovan’s time.
When I asked Nancy’s owner, Doug Abdelnour, what he loved about Donovan, he told me it was the fact that he has the most amazing memory.
If you were there five years ago and ordered two Dirty Bananas, and yours was a little different, maybe not as much chocolate, chances are he’ll remember you. That makes him a phenomenal bartender don’t you think.
And of course everyone loves this fun little bar. There’s even Donovan’s t-shirts so you can remember your experience there. I have one of course, but mine is white and long sleeve!
Don’t feel bad if you’re craving a frosty cool concoction after reading this. I know I am. Perhaps a mango margarita? It’s not on the menu but it’s pretty amazing!
Thanks for reading the On Point Blog. Even though Donovan is a quiet man, I feel like I know him a bit better now. You can learn more about Donovan’s Reef on Facebook. And speaking of social media, don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Linked In, Google+, Pinterest and Youtube.