Following the success of its flagship La Jolla location, Donovan’s has opened a new outpost downtown. Now the renowned service, quality, and setting that put Donovan’s of La Jolla on the map can be found just steps away from the convention center, the ballpark, and the Gaslamp Quarter. As with its La Jolla counterpart, the menu showcases a variety of cuts of succulent USDA Prime steak, while offering an array of other options such as Australian rack of lamb and North Atlantic Salmon. Appetizers and salads are available to tantalize the palate before the main course, and potatoes and vegetables accompany each entrée.Read More ...
Within a week of opening in December 2007, Donovans of Downtown had already proved its worth in the Gaslamp quarter. The younger sibling of the La Jolla institution seems to have inherited the best of Donovan's tradition—flawless service, a welcoming setting, and phenomenal steaks, yet with a more metropolitan feel. Just steps from the ballpark, the convention center, and the new array of condos, Donovans Downtown is modern, inviting, and warm, and seems right at home in the neighborhood.
Stepping through the double glass doors on K Street puts you in front of a towering mahogany wall, intricately crafted with inlaid wood. The wall's gentle curve invites you inside, where high ceilings, dark wood, and large windows create a space that is both grand and intimate. It is hard not to feel at ease as soon as you look around the warm, welcoming space.
The bar is the first thing visible past the hostess stand, and we decide to sit for a cocktail before moving to the dining room for our meal. We are immediately greeted by one of the most gracious bartenders I’ve encountered. We’re offered wine lists, friendly banter, and moments later, complimentary filet mignon sandwiches—Donovan’s specialty happy hour offering. Life is good, I think, as I relax with a glass of Kenwood Jack London Syrah and take in the new surroundings.
The layout of the restaurant affords seating options for a variety of occasions. The main dining room is the most formal, closed off from the rest of the space by a frosted glass wall. An elegant, curved, two-story wine case separates the dining room from the entrance, from which servers routinely pull bottles throughout the course of the evening. A second dining space on the other side of the bar offers a slightly more casual setting, if only because it is less intimate than the main dining room. A VIP room affords the most intimacy, and a second-level mezzanine, with glass, soundproof windows that can be opened or closed, is ideal for private parties or intimate affairs. The lone booth in the restaurant is located on the mezzanine—surrounded by mahogany and almost completely isolated, it is a table for only the most worthy of occasions.
The bar crowd is jovial and friendly, and we are tempted to order from the menu and spend our evening here. However, afraid we will fill up on steak sandwiches before the main event, we opt to move to a table. As soon as we meet our server, we know this is the right decision.
We are greeted by Domingos, an affable professional who will serve as our captain throughout our meal. Service at Donovan’s involves not just a waiter but a devoted service team, with the captain leading the helm. Domingos is friendly and entertaining, and offers the perfect balance of personality and reservation. He is quiet when it seems appropriate, but when we ask questions, he gladly opens up and is eager to share his knowledge. Our meal becomes an experience thanks to his tableside charm.
Donovan’s menu is simple and classic—a compact selection that prioritizes quality and perfection. While the restaurant is known for its USDA Prime Filet Mignon, the entire array of entrees is founded on quality—the lobster is Australian, the crab Alaskan, and every single steak is USDA Prime. We actually have trouble narrowing down the selection, and opt to start with a few appetizers while we debate the merits of ribeye vs. filet.
The Maryland Style Crab Cake is a phenomenal way to begin the meal. One oversized cake is densely packed with rich, flaky crab, peppered with specks of scallion and red pepper. Perfectly round, and easily the size of a hamburger, the plump cake rests atop a bed of shoestring onions and aside a sweep of béarnaise sauce. Pulling the cake apart, it is almost entirely crab, the rich, sweet meat, needing little accompaniment. However, a dip in the sauce and a squirt of lemon add welcome acidity and creaminess, and the crisp onions are gloriously addictive.
The Norwegian Smoked Salmon is a treat. Three thin pieces of salmon, each twirled into themselves so as to stand upright, arrive accompanied by a mixed green salad, and the traditional accompaniments: diced onion, capers, egg, and toast points. The salmon is the freshest I've tasted—the flavor is entirely of subtle smoke and not salty at all. With each bite the smokiness builds and then fades—it is a brief, escaping moment of pure flavor. The salty sweet capers give a welcome tang, while the buttery toast rounds out a bite. It is a classic dish executed to perfection.
I set my glass of syrah aside during the appetizers, looking forward to paring the wine with my main course and not wanting to overpower the seafood. It proves to be an excellent decision. Donovan's house-filtered water pairs surprisingly well with food. The water is filtered five times, we learn, four times through a ceramic filter and a final time through charcoal. It is carried to the tables in reusable glass bottles and poured as elegantly as a bottle of Perrier. I can’t believe I’m devoting a paragraph to water—but it truly deserves praise.
We order our entrees based entirely on Domingo’s recommendations. In response to our inquiry, his face lights up and a grin the size of a short rib appears on his face. He leans in, our shoulders moved toward him, and we feel as if he is about to reveal a primal secret. "Well, I am Brazilian, you know. And we Brazilians, we love our meat." Go on, we urge him with grins of equal size. "And the ribeye…” he makes a kissing motion, tossing his hand from his lips into the air. “The marbling is unrivaled, and you must get the bone-in cut, because the bone gives the meat all of its flavor.” He continues, “the Filet is okay if you want softer meat, and the Porterhouse is great because it has both the sirloin and the tenderloin, but the Ribeye…that is the one."
We are sold. Ribeye Chop it is, all 24 ounces. When it arrives, our eyes light up just as Domingos’s had. The steak is a piece of art—a solid inch thick, and with the surface size of a DVD case, it absolutely commands the plate. It’s flavor is just as commanding as its presence—each time we slice through the blackened outer and pink inner meat, the steak lives up to its reputation. The only possible accompaniments for such a regal steak are the Giant Steak Fries—the thick russet potato wedges, each six-inches long and two-inches wide, are as oversized as the steak. Regardless of their size, the fries are outstanding. Slightly crisp on the outside, they give way to a creamy interior that offers the subtle hint of deep-fried flavor. Our plate appears as I imagine a literal giant’s serving of steak frites would look to Jack of Jack in the Beanstalk. I could not be happier.
The last time I dined at Donovan's La Jolla, one bite of the Seared Cajun Lamb Chop appetizer (also available downtown) made me regret I did not order the entree. This time, I have no regrets. The Australian Rack of Lamb arrives stunningly on a plate—six sizeable ribs held together by light brown, glistening meat that begs to be sliced apart and sampled. The interior is a perfect pale pink—cooked medium—and the meat is so tender a knife effortlessly slides through. The accompanying mint jelly is a surprise and a treat. Sweet, but with a subtle mint spice, the verdant jelly transforms an otherwise amazing piece of lamb into a flavor rainbow. For the second time I have to pat myself on the back regarding the potato choice—the Skillet Fried Potatoes are sublime. Thick rings of russet potato lay dominoed beneath an intoxicating combination of caramelized onions and peppercorn gravy. The potatoes hold a considerable crunch that manages to last throughout the meal even underneath the gravy. The gravy itself is addictive and sweet, with a resounding depth. The entire plate runs the gamut of flavors.
Buttery and crisp sugar snap peas and baby carrots accompany both entrees, offering a refreshing sweetness between bites. We don’t need too—all Donovan’s entrees come with complimentary potatoes and vegetables—but we also order a side of sautéed mushrooms. A sharing-sized portion of halved button mushrooms, sautéed in butter and resonating with pure mushroom flavor, is a flavorful addition. They are tender and burst with flavor, and prove phenomenal both with a bite of the steak and with a bit of the peppercorn gravy.
I must admit we can only put a dent in our entrees, and find they are graciously packaged in unassuming boxes for us to carry home. We do save room for dessert, and the oversized Vanilla Crème Brûlée is well worth the stomach room. It is exactly what a crème brûlée should be: a distinct blend of two flavors and textures—crisp, heady caramel that dissolves into almost chewy tenderness on the tongue, and always-smooth, creamy vanilla whose texture vanishes but whose flavor lingers. As we make our way through the dish, tiny specks of real vanilla reveal themselves—a last bit of evidence that at Donovans, quality is king.
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We celebrated my husband's 73rd Birthday in a wonderful restaurant, with a friendly and efficient team, and with fabulous food! Our family enjoyed the experience and great food and service. My 91-year old Mother thoroughly enjoyed the meal. Thank you!
Was very special.
Food was great, atmosphere and ambience was good! Great service. Thank you for a more than enjoyable evening.
Everything was great and the food was amazing. Great job team
We had great time in Donovan's downtown and i will definitely recommend the restaurant to my colleagues.
My boyfriend and I had a wonderful Date night at Donovan's. Very Romantic.
I loved my scallops and my wife was delighted with her meal as well.
Best steak resturant ever been too. I never loved steak. Now I do!
The Bone in Ribeye was superb. More tender than a filet. Oysters Rockefeller were perfect.
I loved it! Yes it was a litte pricy but it was worth it! And the waiter knew the perfect type of wine that would be perfect for me.
The waiter suggested a wine at our request and it was outstanding. The steak and lobster were perfectly cooked. The staff were extremely attentive and knowledgeable on the menu. We did not know what to expect, but were very pleased with our evening.
We took customers to Donovan's of Downtown not knowing what to expect since we had relied on Internet reviews to make our choice. We were not disappointed. We had a brief wait in the bar area while our table was prepared, and the drinks we ordered were mixed well and promptly served. Of the seven people in our party, six selected beef items from the menu. All orders came to the table perfectly cooked. The seventh person ordered a seafood selection, and was well satisfied. Our waiter provided excellent counsel on wine, a California cabernet, and five of our party chose to have it with their meal. The portions were generous, and as a result, only two of our group elected to have dessert - creme brulee - which they claimed was quite good. Since none remained in their dishes, we believed their comments. A quick word about service. Our waiter was never far away but did not hover, our water glasses were always filled, everyone was friendly but respectful, and our meals were delivered simultaneously. We had arrived in taxis, but were returned to our hotel in the restaurant's own shuttle, a nice touch. Donovan's of Downtown is one of those special places where you take your best customer, or your spouse to have the dinner that makes a lasting memory. If we come back to San Diego, Donovan's of Downtown will definitely be on our list of restaurants to visit.
The service and the food is outstanding, thanks.
You won't regret this choice. We had Oysters and Crabcake for appetizers. Alaskan King Crab and NY Strip for the entree. I can't rave enough about the quality of our meal and service. Outstanding, Outstanding, Outstanding. A bit pricey, but worth every penny. We will be back! -Kevin and Maggie in Temecula, CA
Outstanding food and service!
You haven't dined until you have gone to Donovan's!
The evening was perfect.
Great restaurant! Wonderful staff! Can't wait to go back
Great food and service. Enjoyed. Vallet parking kind of expensive.
Service was excellent, food great, enjoyed it!
It was our first time to Donovan's for my husbands birthday. They made us feel welcome and completely took care of us! The food was great!!!
First time visit, and was very thrilled with every detail from the greeting to leaving the restaurant. The filet may have been the best I've ever experienced. I've heard of "melt-in-your-mouth" filets before, but this was the first time I had experienced it. I was very happy with my choice for our anniversary dinner and will definitely visit again when I'm in town! S. Watkins
From the perfect Martini to the scalopps then the steak with the perfect wine made us feel like steakhouse heaven.
The ambiance, decor and extremely polite and caring staff makes this a wonderful choice for dining, rather it be for a special occasion or "just because." The food was outstanding and I am not a "beef lover"; however, I had the steak and shrimp scampi.... outstanding.
From reception, to all service staff and to the meal itself, every thing was exceptionally good. I will certainly keep this restaurant at the top of my list of places for special occasions.
I am not a food critic but I did appreciate the preparation of the food and the professionalism of the waiting staff. The restaurant was an excellent place to have a date night with my wife. Thank You Donovan's! Jennifer and Lee Bowman
Jeremy was an awesome waiter & Sean was an equally awesome bartender! The food & the service lived up to our expectations, because we usually go to the La Jolla Donovan's. We look forward to dining at Donovan's of Downtown in the near future!
I have too many great compliments for this restaurant - the service is immpecable, the food exquisitely prepared, the ambiance perfect. I couldn't have had a better night in San Diego - may fly out again just to dine here. Dr. Stephanie Moore
We are from the SF Bay Area and I wanted to give my wife a romantic weekend getaway in San Diego. Donovan's seemed the top choice for a romantic dinner and I made a Saturday evening reservation on March 13th, 2010. I wanted a special evening with first class service and food to match, I had great expectations. Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by the valet and the front desk hostess. We were asked if any special occasion and was then seated at a nice table for two. Nicole and her team started an evening of memorable service. After a lengthy review of the menu and specials we were set to order. The Maryland Crab Cake and Shrimp Cocktail were delectable. Fresh baked bread was great! Excellent Caesar Salad. Filtered water (always abundant) was a welcome touch. Our entree was 12oz Lobster Tail and the special Kansas City (17oz bone in) New York Steak (cooked rare to perfection). Every bite was delicious especially paired with the nice glass of Merlot. Our sides were potatoes (baked and Au Gratin) along with vegies that were cooked perfectly Al Dente. The wait staff was very friendly and Nicole made us feel special and was a delight to talk to. The portions were generous, so much so that we could not fit in dessert. A final check on us from the Manager on Duty was much appreciated (Especially the offer of car service if we needed it). I'm sure that there are many fine restaurants in the downtown area but I am glad that we choose Donovan's for our first upper scale ($$$) dining adventure in San Diego. Great expectations truly exceeded.
The waite-staff was wonderful, polite, and knowledgable. The food was excellent...a great cut of beef cooked to perfection. Huge wine list, perhaps the best Pinot Noir we've had. I would recommend this establishment to anyone.
We had the prix fix meals and they were great. Service was excellent and the ambience is very warm and elegant. I would recommend Donovan's over other local steak houses by far!
This was our wedding anniversary and had the most wonderful dinner at Donovan's of Downtown! We can't wait to travel from Arizona next year for our anniversary to go again! The service and food was absolutely perfect, thank you Carlos!
Our reservations were for 7 and we were seated promptly at 6:45 when we arrived. Wait staff was excellent and out appetizers arrived almost as soon as we had ordered them. Good wine list. Exceptional food, prepared exactly as ordered. I had the Filet Mignon with shrimp scampi and my date had the pepper corn filet mignon. Both of our steaks were excellent, with cool red centers and very tender. The au gratin potatoes were mediocre, but the garlic mashed were very good. For desert we had the house triple chocolate brownie and the fruit plate that the waiter recommended. Both a perfect finish to the meal. Overall an excellent dining experience, and I look forward to returning in the near future.
Great steaks and make sure you come hungry!
The services was great as before. Nobody should miss a chance to go to Donovans Steak House in the Gaslamp district
Very friendly service and excellend food - definitely would go back
We liked donovan's restaurant. We are definitely going to return again.
The food was excellent, the atmosphere was romantic for a romantic dinner but the service could have been a little better.
Great food and service
excellenmt meal...good service...very expensive...lovely atmosphere.... but>>>>> the only troubling aspect for us was, this was a special occasion that had been noted when we called. Everyone around us received visits from the two hosts, and even a chef came out once, but we were completely ignored. The guy passed our table to gush over a single lady sitting at the next table but ignored us. Also, no "special dessert" as promised...meal was good but that was disappointing
Waiter was to up tight and isn't able to read his customer. The guy needs to smile and relax and have fun. Great service from Valet, Greeters, all the support staff. Steaks were awesome, sides, could have been better and the salads were great too. All and all I still like Ruth Chris better.
We selected the restaurant based on on-line reviews to celebrate our anniversary. We made reservation for 8:00 PM on a Tuesday. When we arrived (on time) we were told our table is being prepared, but were kept waiting until 8:30 PM. Not exactly the kind of service we expected to get with a reservation. I ordered a steak and asked it to be well done. What I received was an over-cooked steak that was definitely not worth the $40+ price tag. I was hungry and did not want to wait by returning the steak and decided to eat it anyway. Maybe I should have returned it. Otherwise, the rest of the food was OK but not something to rave about. We liked the interior design and ambiance but that would not bring us back after such a disappointing experience with the wait time and the meal itself.