When it’s time for someplace special, Donovan’s doesn’t disappoint


By Kelley Carlson

Donovan’s Steak & Chop House is not just a prime location for beef entrees -- it’s also a destination for celebrations. “We make dreams come true,” General Manager Debbie Shepard said. “(Donovan’s) is like Disneyland for adults.” The restaurant staff helps patrons celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and just about every occasion imaginable, and customizes the event to fit their needs. They’ve been known to hide engagement rings inside desserts, and specially create menus that say, “Will you marry me?” The entire Donovan’s establishment even assisted in the reunion of a mother and daughter who had been separated for 25 years.

Shepard emphasized that guests are treated as if they’re family coming over for dinner. As patrons walk into the softly lit restaurant with Honduran mahogany paneling, they will find an atmosphere reminiscent of an old-fashioned Chicago steakhouse. The main dining room is accented with bronze sculptures such as cowboys and majestic birds, and lamps flicker with candlelight on the center of the white-clothed tables. Those who have dined at Donovan’s at least six times have a personalized nameplate placed next to their seats. Guests can comfortably sit and converse or listen to tunes by the old Rat Pack.

Executive Chef Sal Reynoso, who helped open the restaurant’s flagship La Jolla location, meticulously prepares the USDA Prime steaks and various other “classic” entrees, from chops and chicken to lamb and seafood, with his team.

The steaks are flash-seared at 1,600º to seal juices, and finished to a customer’s preferred temperature. One favorite is the tender Prime Filet, which ranges in size from 8 ounces to 14 ounces. Other options include the Peppercorn Filet; rib eyes; Bone-In New York; and a Mixed Grill, consisting of a 6-ounce Filet Mignon Medallion and a choice of Grilled Portabello Mushroom, Grilled Shrimp Scampi or Bacon Wrapped Scallops.

Seafood lovers may want to take note of the Pan Seared Halibut with lemon and caper beurre blanc, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes and shiitake mushrooms, and topped with crispy shoestring potatoes.

Perhaps the item that is the biggest attention-getter is the Seafood Tower, a tall combination of Australian Coldwater Rock Lobster, Alaskan Red King Crab Legs, Canadian Snow Crab Claws and Mexican White Gulf Shrimp that is chilled in ice and served with dipping sauces. The special dish is marched through the dining room as part of its presentation whenever it’s ordered.

Although known primarily for its steaks and seafood, there are vegetarian options, such as the Beefsteak Tomato and Red Onion salad that is dressed with balsamic vinaigrette, and Soup d’Jour.

Donovan’s will also provide dishes for children, such as mac ‘n’ cheese.

In the bar, complimentary Prime Filet steak sandwiches are served during happy hour, and on Tuesdays -- Ladies Night -- the chef creates special complimentary appetizers.

Guests love Donovan’s bar, Shepard said. “Everyone knows your name here,” she explained. “It’s like the old ‘Cheers’ show.”

In addition to seating in the main dining room and at the bar, there are six side rooms for private events: the Qualcomm Room, with its eclectic decor and flat-screen TV; the Chargers Room, honoring the home football team; the Old Town Room, decorated with photos of San Diego in its early days; the Wine Cellar Room, in which guests are surrounded by hundreds of bottles of vintages; the Del Mar Room, lined with mahogany-framed autographed pictures of famous racehorses such as Triple Crown winner Affirmed and champion Cigar; and the California Room, aptly named for its shape.

Holidays tend to be the busiest days at Donovan’s, most notably Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Shepard said.

Along with La Jolla, the restaurant has two other San Diego locations, a steak-and-seafood establishment at Sixth Avenue and K Street, and Donovan’s Prime Seafood on Fifth Avenue. A fourth restaurant is in Phoenix.

Donovan’s Steak & Chop House

Address: 4340 La Jolla Village Drive, UTC

The Vibe: Romantic, Elegant, Business Casual

Signature Dishes: Prime Rib Eye, Bone-In New York

Open Since: 1999

Hours: 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 4-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; Closed Sunday


Phone: (858) 450-6666

Reservations: Recommended

Patio Seating: No

Take Out: Yes

Happy Hour: 4-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday

On The Menu Recipe

Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story. This week: Donovan’s Pan Seared Halibut.