While San Diego is rife with great restaurants, with new and exciting dining venues opening their kitchens seemingly by the minute, Donovan’s Steak & Chop House remains a premier eatery for locals and tourists alike. Revered for its classic ambiance replete with rich mahogany appointments, statues, fine artwork, plush décor and white linens throughout, the restaurant is a study in how to proffer a definitive steakhouse dining experience.
While the restaurant is quite refined in its setting, service, and foodstuffs, the atmosphere is lively and in line with the staff’s personable team approach. This alluring combination has earned the eatery and array of awards, including the Gold Medallion for “Best San Diego Steakhouse” from the California Restaurant Association as well as “Favorite Gaslamp Steakhouse.” It’s also won recognition for its wine, garnering the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence.
In describing what sets their restaurant apart from other steakhouses, company spokesperson Alberto Mancero noted, “Donovan’s doesn’t just serve food; we provide memorable experiences. Also, what sets us apart is the quality of the ingredients, the dedication to crafting each dish that leaves our kitchen, and the exceptional service and attention to the smallest detail.” That may be why Donovan’s has been known for its share of celebrity sightings, also serving as a go-to venue for a plethora of Padres, Chargers, and PGA players as well as innumerable local and visiting business leaders.
Those who work for the restaurant offer insights on the restaurant’s appeal. Steve Josefki, General Manager of the La Jolla location says, “It’s the aspect of creating and retaining long-standing relationships with hundreds of our regular diners” while the San Diego General Manager Michael Koda said it is the “wonderful and fun staff and guests and the ability to interact with and provide excellent products to guests who are intent on having a great meal.”
The pièce de résistance of this fine dining steakhouse, of course, is its exclusive 100% USDA Prime Steaks, fresh-catch seafood, and expansive wine selection.
On a recent bustling weekend-night visit when there was not an empty seat in the house, I reveled in a range of the restaurant’s offerings. Family style, my party shared the Chop House Salad comprised of mixed greens gently tossed with tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, bacon, hearts of palm, bell peppers and julienne carrots (served with guest’s choice of dressing). We also shared the Bacon Wrapped Scallops finished with fennel compote as well as the whimsical, yet ever-so-tasty, Cap’n Crunch Coated Seared Ahi—a recipe conceived by local chef-leberty, Sam the Cooking Guy.
Our entrée sights were set on both surf and turf. We indulged in the Prime 14-ounce Barrel Cut Filet—a buttery soft and flavorful cut; the Cherry Glazed Pork Chop—a 14-ounce juicy and center-cut topped with a sweet cherry glaze; and the Pan Seared Halibut served with a lemon and caper beurre blanc, arugula, sundried tomatoes and shitake mushrooms all topped with crispy shoestring potatoes. Each and every entrée comes complete with a choice of potato—au gratin, baked, garlic smashed (skin on) or skillet fried with sautéed onions & peppercorn gravy—and fresh seasonal vegetables.
For dessert, my party continued to hold true to steakhouse tradition, opting for the Crème Brulée served with strawberries, and the rich and creamy New York Style Cheesecake with a graham cracker crust topped with whipped cream and strawberries. While customary in concept, quality, and execution, this and the prior courses delivered on our decidedly high expectations.
In addition to the incredible food and drink, Donovan’s also offers the perfect excuse to drop in for Happy Hour with some delectable deals. Monday through Saturday, the restaurant features martinis and signature cocktails on special as well as complimentary prime steak sandwiches from 4pm to 6pm in addition to specially priced appetizers that are featured on a daily basis.
This is also a superior spot for a special event. The restaurant has two private dining rooms that can hold from 10 to 42 guests, including the VIP Room and the Mezzanine Room. Special menus for sit-down meals and cocktail hours are available for all types of functions—from business meetings to special personal celebrations.
In looking to the future, the executive team behind the restaurant has some definitive goals for the restaurant. Josefski said, “We are focused on maintaining the highest standards for food and service while enhancing the unforgettable experiences for our guests.” Koda added, “We want to develop great guest relations and strengthen our loyal customer base while also increasing our already strong ties to the community through charitable acts.”
Lofty goals I’ve no doubt Donovan’s will duly achieve.
***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***