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Donovan's or Rainwater's in San Diego - which is better?

I want to try one of them next time I visit San Diego - which do you recommend?

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  1. donovan's for sure. there is no comparison.

    1 Reply
    1. Agreed - Donovan's is MUCH better!

      1. totally 3rd Donovan's! Donovan's meats are much more flavorful and juicy. Their sides are also outstanding, way better than Rainwater's. I've eaten at both many times and would do a filet or rib eye anytime at Donovan's over Rainwater's. Rainwater's is "good" but they seem to be lacking that extra "something" that Donovan's has. I would put Rainwater's on about the same par as Morton's.

        1. Another vote for Donovan's. Best in town. Ambiance, service, quality, a notch above rainwater. Nothing better than relaxing in the lounge with a conac after a good meal.


          1. Donovan's Rocks! Don't miss the baby rack of lamb appetizer. The best thing about Rainwater is they stay open late.

            1 Reply
            1. DONOVANS! I love those potatoes with the brandy peppercorn sauce..mmmmmm. I have not been to Rainwaters in several years because I prefer DOnovans, Ruth's, and Flemings. Rainwaters uses a charbroiler as I recall. Unless a place has wood firing that grill then they better have a super hot double broiler or i won't be going in. DOuble broiler is key for making a nice uniform crust on the steak.

              1. Donovan's gets my vote. Each of the steakhouses has it's own "little touches" to set it apart, but at the end of the day it's still about the meat. Donovan's has the best steak, such that I'm now spoiled and can't eat a filet anywhere else.

                Order the big filet they have on their menu (13 ounce?) and you'll see. You can get a tender filet anywhere, but the flavor at Donovan's is the best I've ever had.

                1. I have always wanted to like Rainwaters.

                  But I don't.

                  Expensive, poor service, average food, and negative vibe.

                  Donovan's by default.

                  1. Neither! I vote for Morton's.

                    1. Does Dovovans still have that smoking room?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: stevewag23

                        They were suppose to revive that but, I'm not sure they did. In the mood for a stoogie?

                      2. RAINWATERS BY FAR.

                        You can not beat the individual attention that you get from Mr. and Mrs. Rainwater and their daughter when you are are their. There is a member of their family in the dining room all of the time. They strive for perfection.

                        1. goto Cowboy Star. It blows both of them out of the water!

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: mmjgam

                            Props for Cowboy Star. The few times I have been to Donovan's we have not been comfortable with the attitude of most of the servers. Rainwater's was a leader back in the day, but the last time we were there it seemed tired in atmosphere and spirit, and everything we ordered was sorely lacking in execution.

                            1. re: foodiechick

                              "Rainwater's was a leader back in the day"

                              Was it ever really?

                              I hear people say this sometimes.

                              When was "back in the day"?

                              The 60's?

                              1. re: foodiechick

                                I'm surprised about the servers comment. Full disclosure here; I have my own name tag as I frequent Donovan's regularily, I've never had an attitude with servers but, if I did I'd let the MOD know, they will respond to you as their only concern is serving the best quality ingredients and providing the best service. I also agree with your comment about Rainwater's 'back in the day' I use to frequent them a lot (back in the early 80's), I especially enjoyed their wine selections, unfortunately they have tumbled to mediocrity.

                              2. What are the CURRENT reviews for Donovan's, Flemings, etc. steak & seafood places?
                                This string is old and the last time I was there in early 2010 with 3 deep at the bar, impeccable service and the best foods at the HIGHEST prices!

                                Would appreciate any new comments?

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: nutrition

                                  Nice to revive an old thread, almost forgot about Rainwaters. IMO, Donovan's is pricey but, for a steakhouse their entree's include a potato and veg in the entrée price. Most other places offer ala carte.

                                  1. re: cstr

                                    Rainwaters closed four or five years ago. Cowboy Star gets my vote. Expensive but worth it.

                                    1. re: nessy

                                      Yes, I know, I was just reminiscing a bit of the past.

                                  2. re: nutrition

                                    I prefer Donovan's (the one in UC), although frankly it's pretty much a draw with Cowboy Star. The steaks at both places are always cooked exactly as you request and have delicious flavor and texture.

                                    1. re: DoctorChow

                                      And to repeat what I said in another thread, pretty soon that Donovan's will be no more (something about the lease) - but they'll be moving lock, stock, and barrel to what used to be Azul in the village of La Jolla. I suspect that this will result in them losing a good part of the business expense crowd (who will probably shift to Flemings), but they'll gain quite a bit of the Village tourist crowd.

                                      1. re: RB Hound

                                        It will be interesting to see how they do at the new location. I'm not convinced it is a good move. Good point about the business crowd, plus Azul was pretty much a steak house and it eventually failed. They also have to compete with steak and seafood house Eddie V's that is just steps away. I think fine dining has changed drastically and there are too many high end restaurants lining Prospect Street for them to all survive. Nine-Ten, Mediterranean Room at La Valencia, George's CA Modern, Crab Catcher (I only include them because of their high price point), Bijou, Eddie V's, and formerly Azul - they are all really dead during the week. Can expensive restaurants with those high rents and overhead sustain themselves and survive on Fri-Sat night traffic? Even the deep pockets of Papa Doug haven't kept him from growing impatient with the lack of success his property generated, changing the concept to French and bringing in star William Bradley to oversee the transformation. I walked by around 7pm last night and, as is typical, there was ONE party of two dining...not one single person at the new wine bar.

                                        1. re: RB Hound

                                          I like the lock, stock, and barrel part -- mostly because it means the same staff will be in LJ, and so we'll be able to almost certainly get the same great steaks and service.

                                          Central LJ does have a pretty solid business crowd, of course, but although I don't know the demographics numbers, I would think the business crowd in UC is significantly larger. So yes, there could be some loss of that.

                                          Maybe more people than we thought are "boycotting" Bijou. I hope to try the steak tartare with capers there before it collapses like its predecessor did. Sounds like I won't need a res during the week.

                                          Going into LJ for Donovan's will take longer than going to UC for me. Ah, well, tough luck for me.

                                          My feeling, though, is that I think the people in LJ (and of course tourists) will welcome Donovan's, in spite of high-price-point saturation. I hope the customer base there suffices.

                                          1. re: DoctorChow

                                            Just for the record- the Golden Triangle area is not La Jolla, despite the opinion of the real estate folks who benefit from that falsehood.

                                            It's UTC or Miramar. La Jolla doesn't starts west of the 5, and really west of Torrey Pines Road.

                                            1. re: Fake Name

                                              I notice that on Donovan's website, they list the UTC address as "La Jolla, CA 92122".


                                              1. re: RB Hound

                                                I live across the street and it is definitely San Diego 92122. Several blocks East of Regents Road.

                                              2. re: Fake Name

                                                Well, yes, I know that. The current location is University City, but in this post I was referring to the new location, after they move out of UC, which will be in LJ.

                                                Speaking of mis-using the "La Jolla" address, I recall when I first moved here and was working in Sorrento Valley (far west end of the commercially developed area at the time) that the business address used by our company was "La Jolla". Good grief, I thought. It seems everyone in the area surrounding wants to use "La Jolla" in their address.

                                      2. I suspect things have changed since several posts remember the heyday at Donovans's
                                        My first visit was in early 2010 early on a Monday night, which really amazed me with business men/attorneys 3 deep at the bar and every table filled. The food was incredible to go with the prices. Didn't want to believe what I saw.

                                        This Monday Cocktail Hour at the bar had 1 or 2 lonely men at the bar! No waiting empty tables with little traffic. Immediately, I wondered what happened to the food at the hugh prices.

                                        The Shrimp, Scallop, Clam (Seafood Chowder) was ALL potato cubes and mashed potato thickening without any flavor what so ever!
                                        Surf & Turf had a very tough piece of beef, which I could not recognize as to the cut, that did not yield to a steak knife.
                                        Definitely not a filet. All I could think of is the cattle, that are being taken to market due to the drought as they waste away on the ranches! The Lobster Tail was good as was the fresh bread. Incidentally, the 12oz Lobster quotes at $72.00 if you are interested.

                                        Unfortunately, Flemings is also nearby and was suggested as a possibility. Am still kicking myself for making the wrong choice.

                                        This reminded me of the Azul, when we had outstanding dinners several times before it was turned into a steak house. Then last year a friend from Houston remembered one of those great dinners with the ocean view, that are hard to forget and insisted on going back to Azul. I tried to explain, that it had become a steak house and was not the same memorial dining. I told him the usual La Jolla diners were not going there and even the Bar was now empty. I liked to have one of the great Kobi Burgers at the bar Happy Hour, when I was in the area. I also noticed the very good bar tender was gone, and a new one started the day before. SO after summing up all of this, I concluded Azul didn't have much life left.
                                        Well, we ordered the Special Steak. Mine was cold, tough and tasteless. Another restaurant bites the dust and never came back.
                                        This year, we have gone to Eddy V's and Georges Moderne for some good food.

                                        I do remember reading that a Donovan's sale was hanging a couple of years ago. Again the Lease comes up and maybe trying to move. Triple nets are not paying off like they used to before the crash. My prediction with the quality at the present time will not save Donovan's in La Jolla by a move to the Azul space or any other location. The fat easy years before the 2008 crash are history.