After the recent move from its UTC location, La Jolla's premier steakhouse is now overlooking the famous La Jolla Cove. In addition to picturesque views, Donovan’s Steak and Chop house offers a refined setting filled with upscale class and elegance. The menu showcases a variety of cuts of succulent USDA Prime steak, while offering a variety of other options from Australian rack of lamb to North Atlantic Salmon. Appetizers and salads tantalize the palate before the main course, while potatoes and vegetables—always complimentary—accompany each entrée. An award-winning wine list offers an astounding selection of both well-known and boutique wines across an equally varied price range, and gracious service, complimentary valet parking, and VIP treatment are the icing on the cake.Read More ...
Donovan’s Steak and Chop House is a true San Diego institution. Since opening in January 1999, the restaurant has become a favorite of local celebrities, professional sports teams, business professionals, and anyone celebrating a special occasion. Although conveniently located in an ordinary office park in the UTC /Golden Triangle area, the restaurant is a destination—offering an elegant, secluded setting, service reminiscent of an elite supper club, and unrivaled steakhouse fare.
The transition to refined luxury begins not at the door but before it, with the restaurant’s complimentary valet. A towering, windowless door of dark wood stands at the entrance, adorned only with an embossed bronze plaque bearing the words: "proper attire suggested." Past a small alcove, the entrance opens to a bar and reception area, a surprisingly busy, bustling space. We entered to catch the tail end of Donovan’s daily happy hour and the bar was full of energy. Well-dressed guests seemed relaxed and jovial, enjoying after-work drinks and Donovan’s happy hour specialty: complimentary Kobe steak sandwiches.
We left the bar scene to the happy hour patrons and followed our host into the main dining room, which, while equally packed, was calm and serene. Deep mahogany paneling and dim Tiffany lamps set the stage for elegance; low walls between booths were peppered with bronze Remington statues in a playful nod to the old west. White linens covered the tables, which were generously spaced, making every guest’s dinner a private, intimate affair. While the tables themselves were intimate, the restaurant itself was quite large, with seven different rooms and a capacity for over 300. That evening, each of the private rooms was accommodating a private party—business presentations, family reunions, and birthday celebrations are common.
We settled into our generous booth and felt at once at ease, surrounded by supple leather and white linen. We were instantly greeted by William, who along with Francisco and Matt would take care of us throughout our meal. All tables at Donovan’s are attended by not just one server, but a team of three, ensuring every crumb accounted for, every glass refilled. Yet the service remains unobtrusive; never once did we feel we were overly-waited on.
I eagerly picked up the wine list, whose 28 pages offer one of the best selections in the city. Donovan’s has been granted the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence—an honor bestowed on less than 10 restaurants in San Diego—for seven years in a row (2000-2007). The list offers a truly dazzling, worldly array of wines. The selection ranges from everyday to special occasion, with each bottle hand-picked to accompany the cuisine. I was impressed by the “wines by the stem” selection alone; it ranged from familiar to surprisingly high-end, allowing guests with exquisite tastes to be satisfied with just a glass. French, Italian, and California wines were particularly well-represented, with half bottles as well as bottles and large-format offerings.
I settled on a glass of Hill Family Estate 2005 Carly's Cuvee Chardonnay. The Hill Family makes excellent wines and this was no exception: barely oaky, it was bright, round, and almost fruity, and promised to pair well with our starters. My date's cocktail, a Hendrick's Martini, gave a surprisingly similar satisfaction, thanks to the subtle complexities of Hendrick's gin. Satisfied even before we were sated, we turned to the menu, eager to begin our meal.
Executive Chef Martine Venegas, who has been with Donovan’s since its 1999 opening, offers an array of varied and creative starters, adding a bit of variety to the classic steak house meal. We settled on two: the Bacon-Wrapped Scallops and, upon Manager Steve Josefski’s eager recommendation, the Seared Cajun Lamb Chops. They arrived, of course, exactly at the same time, our team of servers simultaneously placing the plates on the table.
The Bacon Wrapped Scallops were a feast for the eyes: four plump scallops in a pool of broth, each enveloped by a thick ribbon of smoky bacon and topped with a crispy sprinkling of blackened fresh herbs. Amid the quartet rested a medley of stewed sweet tomatoes and onions, and below lay a pool of light tomato-wine broth. Each pale scallop afforded at least three bites, our knives sliding effortlessly through the premium meat to carefully divide both scallop and bacon. Each bite was sublime—mild, silky scallop mingling with sweet, smoky bacon and a burst of fresh tomato flavor.
It was only after several mesmerizing bites that we moved on to the Seared Cajun Lamb Chops, as the playful presentation was urging our attention. Four dark chops leaned like toppled dominoes against a half baked potato, which, standing upright, was hollowed out and filled with creamy buttermilk dressing. The first bite was awakening: a rush of meaty lamb followed by a second burst of spice. Tender doesn’t begin to describe the texture—the crisp, perfectly seared, spice-coated outside gave way to nothing less than moist, succulent velvet. I almost wished I had ordered the lamb entrée.
Our mouths lingering over flavorful starters while anticipating entrees to come, it was time for a refreshing interlude. Donovan's Chop House Salad fit the bill perfectly. Creamy blue cheese dressing covered crisp romaine and silky Bibb lettuce, mixed with sliced hearts of palm, diced cucumber, tomato, bell peppers, and carrots. As if to ensure decadence even in a salad, blue cheese and bacon crumbles garnished the dish. Each bite was creamy and refreshing, the clearly-fresh vegetables bursting with moist flavor.
It takes little to spot Donovan's flagship entree on the menu: USDA Prime Filet Mignon. The filet appears not once, but seven times, offered in three different sizes, with three different accompaniments, plain or pepper-crusted. Needless to say, it took little to persuade us to order this steak, although we did waver on the preparation. All three combinations—an 8 ounce Filet paired with Shrimp Scampi, Portobello Mushroom, or Bacon-Wrapped Scallops—were tempting, but ultimately we decided on a classic: the 10 ounce Filet accompanied by a baked potato.
For our other entree, there was little hesitation. If USDA Prime Filet Mignon is the crown jewel of the land, its counterpart, the crown jewel of the sea, is Australian Cold Water Lobster. Donovan’s plump, oversized lobster tails are baked, rather than steamed, adding a dimension of flavor to the already succulent crustacean. Of the four complimentary potato accompaniments, we selected the lightest: the garlic smashed potatoes.
The wine list, which can contain anywhere from 450-700 bottles at one time, changes weekly, hand-picked by General Manager Steve Josefski and Sommelier Andrew Bushnell. Their approach, "buy by feel," not only results in an excellent selection that matches any combination of dishes on the menu; it means Donovan’s has personal relationships with many wineries on its list. Rather than being pressured into selecting from among the 500+ bottles that evening, we opted for a recommendation from the sommelier. Professional and gracious, Steve gladly suggested a 2004 Stephen Ross Pinot Noir from Bien Nacido Vineyards. It was perfect—medium bodied, it had a noticeable complexity that faded to a smooth finish, and really opened up to both the steak and lobster.
And then there were the steak and lobster. The Australian Cold Water Lobster tail was gorgeous—commanding the plate and bursting out of its shell. Just as I was lamenting how much damage I would do the presentation, William deftly removed the lobster from my plate, and with one swift motion, removed the meat from the tail. What was left was a gloriously large steak of lobster meat, which I could gloriously eat without destroying presentation. The lobster was succulent and supple, the pale white flesh eagerly absorbing a clarified butter sauce to reach decadent heights. The garlic smashed potatoes, a whipped combination of potato skin and flesh were creamy but not overpowering; the accompanying baby carrots and snap peas were clearly fresh, crispy, and sweet.
While I was marveling at William's skillful move with my lobster, my date was receiving the royal treatment from Francisco, who was dressing his potato. Holding a tray of accoutrements, Francisco was carefully spooning toppings onto the large Idaho spud, pausing before each spoonful to ask my date’s approval. Plump balls of butter melted instantly, covered by a layer of creamy sour cream, delicate chives, and, of course, bacon. While I was at first distracted by the showy spud, it did not steal the show; the regal 10-oz. Filet was enviably gorgeous. Charred to black on the outside, the filet cut to reveal a thin ring of brown and an elegant pink center. The contrast between the blackened interior and velvety interior was stunning; indeed it is Donovan's forte. Steaks are prepared in a 1600 degree oven, ensuring a solid sear and short cooking time. Juices are sealed in, steaks cooked to perfection. Each bite was better than the last.
When your meal consists of filet mignon and lobster, dessert hardly seems necessary, yet we saw no reason to cut our indulgent meal short. The Triple Chocolate Brownie was a sweet tooth’s dream: white and dark chocolate woven into a moist, almost fudgy brownie surrounded by a pool of chocolate truffle sauce and buried beneath a slightly melted scoop of vanilla Häagen Dazs. It was a wonderfully playful end to an astoundingly elegant, refined meal.
On the way out, we paused in the tiny alcove between the bar and the exit. Elegantly appointed with two wingback chairs, a small lamp and table, and framed autographed photographs, it afforded one last moment of calm before stepping out into the night. Like the sports figures and celebrities whose autographed photos filled the walls, we agreed: Donovan’s had our seal of approval.
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It was the best service that I have received anywhere. Courtney and Tiffany took the time to talk to us. They made us feel like we were old friends. The steak was perfectly cooked. They gave you a steak knife, but you could have cut it with a butter knife. The garlic mashed potatoes were the best that I have ever had. It was a wonderful evening.
The food is first class, the ambiance is lovely. It's a relatively quiet restaurant and creates a fantastic dining experience. It's always a memorable evening. While it's a tad bit on the pricy side, it always seems worth every penny. The service is always ranking among the best. We had a gentleman named Bobby this time, and he of course didn't fail to live up to the dining experience expected when at Donovan's. We keep coming back for the over all superior dining experience.
Great food, big portions and the service was wonderful!
Service at the valet was fantastic. Felt welcome as soon as I entered. Wonderful bar and quick to be seated in the Charger area. Excellent prime rib. It was enormous and expertly cooked. The three waiters that took care of us really helped us as first time customers. Great ambiance - quiet, but still able to talk normally. Wonderful experience all around.
Everything was wonderful from the time we pulled into the driveway to when we received our meal.
OUR FAMILY ALWAYS HAVE ENJOYED THE DONOVAN'S EXPERIENCE. FOOD IS FANTASIC AND FROM THE TIME YOU DRIVE UP IT STARTS THERE AND GETS BETTER & BETTER. EVERY ONE IS WARM & FRIENDLY. WE HAVE ENJOYED OVER 50 VISIT'S AND EACH ONE HAS BEEN A RESTAURANT WE CHOOSE TO BRING FAMILY & FRIENDS TOO. ALWAYS A GREAT EXPERIENCE. RUTMAN FAMILY
One of the better wine lists in San Diego. Excellent service and relaxing atmosphere.
I'm generally a big fan of the shoreline eateries in La Jolla for obvious reasons. Donovan's, however, I will make an exception for. It is a classic restaurant, but good steaks and a great adult beverage selection make it work. You might miss the sunshine, the sea, and the breeze, but if you're there with the right people it's a great place to be.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Donovan's; great restaurants forget why they became great. Some start off with a great dish and with time that dish loses quality because of conformity. Of course, in a sense. However, my experience at Donovan's was incredible. Great service, amazing food and awesome ambience. The hosts, waiters and bus boys always had a smile and treated you like a celebrity.
It was great. We enjoy very much, the wine and prime rib
excellent service. best steak ever.made us feel important.
The whole experience was outstanding. The big room is noisy, but we sat in the smaller section which is recommended if you want to talk (and hear each other). Try the fix menu, which is a bargain. We had the Porterhouse 20oz, and it was done to perfection.
Excellent food; friendly & accommodating waiter; excellent ambiance.
If you are looking for a special place to celebrate any occasion, Donovan's of La Jolla is the place! What a fantastic experience and the service is outstanding. The macaroni and cheese is the best my husband and I have ever had. You will not leave this restaurant disappointed!
My husband & I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary recently and had a wonderful meal & the service was excellent. Would recommend this restaurant again & again.... Kathy in Ramona
best steakhouse in san diego
Our dining experience was outstanding...food, atmosphere and especially the company! My wife and I had a wonderful time...the wait staff was punctual, polite and on the ball the whole night. If you love steak, please don't miss this great dining experiance!
I went to Donovan's of La Jolla thhis weekend and the food and service was extraordinary. It was my husband's birthday and they surprised him with a Creme Brulee with candles. I had a wonderful night.
We had an excellent dinner at Donovan's on our 15th anniversary. The staff was very attentive but did not interfere in any way. The food was very good and done exactly as we liked. The atmosphere was better than what I had expected when I first arrived. The complimentary valet service is very nice, but I wasn't sure when we entered and to the right was the bar area. However, once we were at our table, there was no issue with any bar noise at all. I am hoping to go there again the next time we are in town.
The entire staff was extremely efficient and very friendly. The food was oustanding too. This was the best restaurant experience we've had in years!
My chop was wonderful. The potatoes were excellent, and the portion was enough for two more meals. I had the 16 ounce chop.
The meal and service was very good. The wine selection fair and way to pricy.
The wait staff (of which we had four all to ourselves) took very good care of us. There wasn't more than 3-5 minutes between check-ins. They kept our drinks topped off and our table clean. And our waitress helped personalize our wine selection based on our menu choices. The meal itself was as expected from a 5 star restaurant. The steaks were cooked to specification and seasoned to absolute perfection. I ordered the Rib-eye and the wife had a NY Strip, both where out of this world. The side dishes however were OK at best. We had the seasoned veggies and the Garlic Smashed Potatoes and though they were good, they were nothing to write home about, and definitely sub-par for such an "expensive meal." But in the end the service, the steaks, and the wine selection is easily reason enough to have us coming back for more. I highly recommend this restaurant, just know the sides will not "Wow" anyone.
Loved the location and ambiance, our waiter was exceptional and the food was very good. I would definately go back!
find food but maybe adding some Windows would be nice because the restaurant seems very closed in.
It could have been better if the wait was not so long. I had a reservation and I can't see any reason for myself and my date to wait 45 mins. after the expected time.
We went to Donovan's to celebrate our anniversary. We had a reservation for 8:00pm and were not seated until 9:15. What is the point of making a reservation if you have to wait an hour to be seated! The restaurant was very noisy and crowded. They lobby and bar area was not big enough to accommodate all the people waiting for a table so everyone was kinda packed in there like sardines.
When we were finally seated, we were taken to one of the back dining rooms which was crammed full of tables. It felt like everyone was sitting on top of each other. If you are looking for a nice romantic setting this is not the place to go. It was really crowded and uncomfortable. My boyfriend and I both ordered steaks medium well. My boyfriend's came out correct, however, mind was completely rare. So rare it was still cold in the middle. I'm usually not one to complain or send food back at places, but this time I had to because it was totally inedible for me.
The waiter was really nice and apologized for the mistake. He took the steak off my plate and left the potatoes and vegetables so I would at least have something to eat while I waited for my steak to come back. The waiter brought my steak back a few minutes later with a new serving of potatoes and vegetables. He asked me to check it to see if the steak was cooked to my liking...it was still very much on the rare side. So he took it back a second time leaving me with more potatoes and vegetables to eat. On the third try my steak was finally cooked the way I had ordered it. It was again brought out with a new helping of potatoes and vegetables.
By the time I actually got the steak I ordered I was so full on potatoes and vegetables that I couldn't eat very much of the meat. For being a steak place they sure seemed to have a hard time cooking a steak to order. The waiter was very apologetic for the inconvenience and comped us dessert and the cost of my steak. Over all we were pretty disappointed in the whole experience. I would not go here again.