Donovan’s La Jolla
Should you receive a request to meet a friend after work for the epic happy hour at Donovan’s in La Jolla, be forewarned, going to the space in UTC that the vaunted steak and chop house occupied for countless years will leave you scratching your head and wondering where it had gone. Recently, circumstances beyond ownership’s control forced them to seek a new location. Fortunately, there was a spot with an incredible ocean view and plenty of elbow room on Prospect Street between George’s at the Cove and Eddie V’s.
Currently, the entire complex at 1250 Prospect is undergoing an exterior overhaul, which has left the restaurant with zero signage save for a small sidewalk sign pointing the way to the lovely, hidden gem. Once inside, guests are bound to be impressed by a long, welcoming bar (a holdover from former tenant, Azul) and a dining room with tall windows running the length of the western wall giving view to the ocean, kayakers, and seals at the La Jolla Children’s Pool.
Mother Nature’s sunny rays don’t quite convey the same feeling of insider-club, bourbon and bull, old-schoolish atmosphere as the dark woods that gave the original UTC spot such character and classic steakhouse ambience, but they do provide a natural liveliness that makes the new dining room more family-friendly and allows one to more easily appreciate and marvel at the giant cuts of meat and sizeable treasures harvested from the nearby sea.
On that note, the food program has survived the move completely intact. If you are in pursuit of substantial cuts of meat that are perfectly cooked and well-seasoned, Donovan’s remains at the top of a short list of eateries sure to satisfy. A 20-ounce bone-in ribeye has a salt crust that gives way to juicy, marbled goodness, and leaner filets, while not as boldly seasoned, offer both tenderness and a very honest expression of Grade A protein.
But to ignore the aquatic offerings on the bill of fare — as so many tend to do — is ill-advised. Shrimp nearly the size of boomerangs make for a cocktail every bit as fantastic as the house Old Fashioned. Plump oysters are given treatment worthy of the moniker “Rockefeller,” courtesy of toasty garlic, salty Parmesan, and sturdy spinach. Similarly traditional dishes taken over-the-top include a classic wedge salad with a decadent overload of blue cheese, and well-finessed scalloped potatoes that’ll make mom’s seem ham-handed by comparison.
And it would seem the best is yet to come. Later this month, the restaurant will debut a two-part outdoor dining area consisting of a casual seating area for folks who enjoy their happy hours al fresco, plus a white-linen dining section benefiting from those splendid ocean views. 858.450.6666, donovanssteakhouse.com Brandon Hernández