There are a Number of Great Steak Places, but Donovan’s is the Best Steakhouse in San Diego
“I think steak is the ultimate comfort food, and if you’re going out for one, that isn’t the time to scrimp on calories or quality.” -Tom Colicchio
When someone visits town or they are new to San Diego, I frequently get asked, “What are the best restaurants?” I do enjoy eating out, and people that know me know that I usually give really good recommendations. I also get asked, “What is the best steak place?” This question is really one of my specialties.
There are a number of really good steak restaurants in San Diego including Flemings, Morton’s The Steakhouse, and Ruth’s Chris. There are also some great restaurants that serve a good steak including Pamplemousse Grille, Veladora, AR Valentine, Market Restaurant, Sbicca, George’s at the Cove, Dolce, West Steak & Seafood, and Eddie V’s. Here is a full list of my favorite restaurants in La Jolla.
However, for my taste, the best pure “old school” steak restaurant in San Diego is Donovan’s Steak & Chop House. They have two locations in San Diego, downtown and La Jolla. The La Jolla location used to be in the UTC area, but they moved to the downtown La Jolla village about a year ago, to the old Azul location, next to George’s at the Cove. I really prefer the La Jolla location for a number of reasons, but partly because they have a much more extensive wine list. La Jolla village is an awesome location, much better than the old UTC location, and they still have the same amazing steaks, service, and wine list.
There are a few things that make this the best steak restaurant for me, so I’ve outline them in detail:
Quality of the Food
I like what the Dovovan’s website says about the food: “Straight-forward, honest and always flavorful. Our executive chefs achieve Donovan’s high standards of excellence with every dish. Prime USDA, house-cut steaks, market fresh seafood flown in daily, and fresh seasonal vegetables are crafted into the delectable entrees, sides and appetizers you expect at a premier steakhouse.”
When I order a steak, I like to taste the steak. I don’t do sauces or accouterments on my steak. Donovan’s delivers this “straight-forward” experience, but they do offer sauces, “Oscar style, and “Surf and Turf with lobster or other seafood options. Everything is always the best cuts of USDA Prime beef, and they frequently have bone-in options of the filet, the New York and the Ribeye.
The appetizers are also amazing. One of my favorites for a group is the seafood tower. You have to see it to believe it. I also like their lobster bisque, and the salads are always spot on.
The fresh baked break is the best. The only place I know in San Diego that has better bread is the WineSellar & Brasserie in Sorrento Mesa. As a side note, the food at the WineSellar is really great there too, and they have a wine store right there!
The non-steak options at Donovan’s are really great. So if you have people in your party that don’t like red meat, and are not offended by you eating red meat in front of them, you can all have an amazing dining experience at Donovan’s.
The desserts are also very good at Donovan’s. They keep things simple but delicious.
I like that the steaks are not served a la carte. They always come with some simple side dishes. I like that it comes with some simple vegetables and a potato option. I am a baked potato guy an they are always terrific at Donovan’s. If you want to add additional sides, they are available.
Wine List and Cocktails
The wine list at Donovan’s La Jolla is one of the best in San Diego. There are many other places that have terrific wine lists as well, many of them have been mentioned in the article. However, my point here is that when you eat steak, or have any fine dining experience, you want to pare your food with great wine. At least I do. Sometimes I want to bring my own wine, and a reasonable corkage fee is available at Donovan’s.
The bartenders at Donovan’s are really top-notch mixologists, which results in well-crafted cocktails to enhance the overall experience. The bar area is really nice, and it is a fun place to hang-out before or after dinner, or to meet with friends for Happy Hour.
I have never had a bad service experience at Donovan’s. There is typically a team of three waiters for each table. They are always consummate service professionals. It is on of the things that makes the dining experience Donovan’s so special.
Ambiance and Location
The La Jolla Donovan’s location has a similar “old school steakhouse” décor as all of the Donovan’s locations. However, what makes it so special is the location, right on prospect, overlooking La Jolla Cove. They recently did a renovation that extended the outside patio all the way to the cliff overlooking the ocean. It is one of the most special places in San Diego, although it can get a little cool and windy at night, especially in the winter.
Overall, I’d say that Donovan’s is easily in my Top 10 restaurants in San Diego, and if you’re in the mood for a great steak in an wonderful environment with terrific service, I recommend Donovan’s La Jolla without reservation. Along those lines, you can book reservations by calling them or via Open Table.
What is your favorite place to get a steak in San Diego? Have you tried Donovan’s? What did you think?