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Steakhouse - SD

Simple question - what's the best steakhouse in San Diego?

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  1. For me it's Donovan's in LJ.

    1. I happen to be a big fan of the Bone in Filet at Lou and Mickey's.

        1. re: mcgrath

          2nd Cowboy Star, IMO it is in a class by itself in this town. Donovan's, Lou and Mickey's, Insert Chain Here, are all equally mediocore in my book.

          1. re: stevuchan

            Thanks, all. We hit Cowboy Star last night, and quite enjoyed it. The fig-goat-cheese amuse-bouche we were served was a pretty bad start (and made us nervous about what was to come), but the rest of the meal was great. Perfect steaks with brussel sprouts, lovely seared foie gras, and a lovely vanilla panna cotta for dessert. Good recommendation.


            Cowboy Star Restaurant & Butcher Shop
            640 10th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

            1. re: Indirect Heat

              "lovely seared foie gras"

              How was it served?

              Also, how busy was it on a friday night?

              1. re: stevewag23

                Seared foie gras had a Banyuls reduction sauce, and was served on toasted baguette. Simple, but really nice.

                We had 7:15 reservations, showed up half an hour early, due to a change in plans, and the restaurant was half empty, so they had no trouble accommodating us. By the time we left, around 9, it was nearly full. I was surprised that it wasn't busier.

                1. re: Indirect Heat

                  "Seared foie gras had a Banyuls reduction sauce"

                  With fruit?

              2. re: Indirect Heat

                what was wrong with the amuse bouche or were you just not enamored of the combination? I particularly like it and do a variation of it at home although I've wrapped mine in prosciutto and throw it on the grill to warm it up.

                1. re: ibstatguy

                  It was just boring, is all. It seemed like something they had the bartender slap together. It wasn't terrible, it just wasn't great, either. It was "meh".

                2. re: Indirect Heat

                  May I inquire as to which cut you had? At steakhouses I only ever get ribeyes, so was wondering if you or anyone you were with had it.

                  1. re: deeznuts

                    I had a dry-aged bone-in strip. My wife had the filet mignon.

              3. re: mcgrath

                Absolutely amazing! In fairness, only eat here when I'm in town and haven't tried all the choices.

              4. Donovan's. We have eaten at both UTC and Gaslamp and service has been excellent at both, steak selection is limited, but well executed.

                Haven't had a chance to try Cowboy Star yet.

                  1. RAINWATERS!

                    You can not beat a resteraunt where the owner is their to supervise.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                      the owners of Cowboy Star, which include Chef Victor, are there to supervise.

                      1. re: ibstatguy

                        Victor Jiminez is a very customer oriented Chef. He came out of the kitchen frequently at Gringo's, and then later at JRDN. It is nice to see him with a stake in his own restaurant.

                        1. re: Captain Jack

                          Just a point of order.

                          I know that 10th Avenue at G Street is technically out of the Gaslamp, but it's still in the range in which you'd mention if people ask for decent places to eat around there - ala Cafe Chloe. So why does Cowboy Star seldom get mentioned when people ask for Gaslamp recommendations?

                      2. re: normalheightsfoodie

                        I know people with think I am being "negative" but I have never liked Rainwaters (although I have wanted to).

                        Terrible atmosphere, negative vibes, weird smells, poor service and prices that go above and beyond restaurants that are world class.

                        Wine by the glass list is astronomical.

                        I don't know how this places survives.

                        Wait, yes I do, they advertise in airplane publications under those "Top 10 Steakhouses in the Universe" marketing schemes.

                        1. re: stevewag23

                          Thanks for the critique of my recomendation, but you failed to offer the poster an original thought or recomendation of your own.

                          1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                            Have none.

                            But if you pressure me, Cowboy Star.

                            1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                              I'd have to agree w/ stevewag23's opinion of Rainwater's. Ate there many times over the years and every time I wanted to like it and it just seemed to go downhill w/ every visit. Underseasoned, flavorless beef and unexciting sides that looked good on the menu but underdelivered.

                              Haven't been to Cowboy Star, but we like Donovan's and Flemings' (in that order).

                              1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                I will also chime in on this one. We used to go to Rainwaters when we used to visit and before we moved back to SD. Way back when we loved it, but the last two or three times it just wasn't right. The food was not cooked properly, poor cut of beef and lamb, wine prices really steep. I live up in no. county and I will admit I don't eat downtown much but this place is so far off my radar. I would much rather go to Ruth's Chris, and I know there not the best, than Rainwaters

                                1. re: littlestevie

                                  "I would much rather go to Ruth's Chris"

                                  Me too, and the service in that place is a brick too.

                              2. re: stevewag23

                                Rainwaters used to serve food until 1am which was awesome. My buddy Norman and I got to know the butcher, Tino, and he would take us in the meat locker and let us pick out our own steaks. Once I picked out a 64oz porterhouse. I barely finished it with the salad, baked potato and all. It was a great place to roll in late with a solid alcohol buzz going. Sadly, they now close at 11pm on the weekends.

                                1. re: Captain Jack

                                  "Rainwaters used to serve food until 1am"

                                  How long ago was this?

                                  1. re: stevewag23

                                    It was quite a while ago. About 10 years since the last time I was there late.

                            2. Excluding my bbq, that would be Donovan's. Great steak and wine, some excellent sides too.

                              1. Another great showing for the Cowboy Star. Finally tried the Buffalo Rib Eye. Have to say that I prefer the cow. But very, very good. I would also highly recommend the Hess 19 acre red blend, it is a very good wine. And all of their cocktails are great, my favorite is the Cowboy Mohito, previously known as the strawberry mohito.

                                1. I think Bully's East is pretty good and under rated. They are not at all stuffy and they have a great happy hour and bar.

                                  Bully's East
                                  2401 Camino Del Rio S, San Diego, CA 92108

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                    Pretty good OK, but they are out of place on the best san diego steakhouse thread.

                                    1. re: stevuchan

                                      You are free to express your opinion. Like the others they serve prime beef. They are just not as pricy or stuffy as the others. What makes a great steak house, price point, a maitre de in a tux, or just good steaks?

                                      1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                        Since when does Bully's serve prime beef? Good prime rib, not prime steaks. Mostly choice corn fed mid-western beef. Yes everyone is free to express their opinion, this is a discussion board. Is it your opinion that Bully's is the best steakhouse in San Diego? I'm not knocking Bully's, I've been a customer for +10 years (RIP Bird Rock location), I'm just saying Bully's is what it is and it is not the best Steakhouse San Diego has to offer. A great steak house to me is top quality steaks, sides, apps, service, and a good wine list, but that is another thread all together.

                                        1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                          I like Bully's, they have a great burger, just one small point, Bully's uses USDA Choice beef.

                                          1. re: cstr

                                            I like Bully's too, but I think they do prime rib better than steaks.

                                    2. Definitely Cowboy Star in downtown, SD. I really like knowing where the meat is sourced from. Love watching the open kitchen with the chef's working. Delicious, solid American food. Great garlic mashed potatoes.

                                      1. don't overlook that C Star also has a butcher shop and they will place orders for you

                                        1. For my money, Donovans. I've been to cowboy star, had buffalo ribeye and sweet breads, it was very good, but Donovans blew me away one night and has been consistently good. Donovans reminds me of traditional steakhouses in texas more so than cowboy star.

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: chezwhitey

                                            Recently dined at Donovan's for the first time in a few years. The steak was great and perfectly cooked, top-notch service. The experience failed on every other level from the over-priced drinks and wine list to the dismal execution of side dishes and dessert. Seriously the worst salad and cheesecake that I can remember. Won't be going back.

                                            1. re: foodiechick

                                              Since there are two locations, UTC and Gaslamp, I think it would be a good idea to differentiate as to which location you had the bad experience. We have always had nothing less than a good to excellent experience at the UTC restaurant.

                                                1. re: daantaat

                                                  Party of four ordered 3 different ones. Beefsteak tomato: unripened, hard, tomatoes. Caesar: Limp romaine with hard, plastic tasting pre-grated parmesan and flavorless dressing. Chopped salad: the worst offender. Not mixed greens as stated on the menu, but chopped iceberg (the whitest part close to the stem) and a small scattering of grated carrot. Honestly, California Pizza Kitchen does a better version than this high end steakhouse...and I'm not a big fan of CPK.

                                                  1. re: foodiechick

                                                    I have also had similar experiences at Donovan's, IMO Cowboy Star is far superior.

                                                    1. re: foodiechick

                                                      Not good.

                                                      Am I the only one, but I think Donovan's has changed and/or slid slightly downhill from several years ago? I ended up there twice last week and noticed that their rib eye is less seasoned than before and their creamed spinach recipe has changed from finely chopped spinach to leaves of baby spinach. And whoever shucked the oysters doesn't know what they're doing b/c there wasn't any liquor in the shell AND they presented them tilted at a 60 degree angle , further draining what liquor may have been their to begin with.

                                                      However, their potatoes au gratin, mac and cheese, creamed corn and mushrooms were still very tasty. I could have made a meal out of the sides.

                                                      I am glad I got their mushroom soup that night instead of the chopped salad!

                                                2. re: chezwhitey

                                                  we're each entitled to our respective opinions and particular occasions can certainly color one's perception but IMHO Cowboy Star blows away Donovans in dining options, food preparation and service.

                                                  1. Cowboy Star, hands down. I like Morton's too...

                                                    1. Friends are recommending Carver's in Rancho Bernardo. Any opinions? Haven't been there since it was some other steak place about 15 years ago!

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: pine time

                                                        Havn't been but if it is like its sister restaurant, Bentleys, which is in Encinitas, it is ok, but it is not by a long shot the best steakhouse in SD.

                                                        1. re: littlestevie

                                                          Been to Bentley's once and was underimpressed.

                                                          1. re: daantaat

                                                            My problem with them is that they think they are better than they are. I live right around the corner from them and I would go there more often but everytime I get the bill, I think to myself, Jeez for what I just spent, I should of gone to Red Tractons instead. They do pack 'em in however, especially when it is nice and you can dine out on the patio.

                                                            Red Tracton's
                                                            550 Via De La Valle, Solana Beach, CA 92075

                                                            1. re: littlestevie

                                                              We hit up Red Tracton's last Saturday. We were really pleased with the prime rib, and 7-oz.. filet special (which was grass-fed beef). both of which were done perfectly (medium rare). I think it was better than our last visit to Donovan's.

                                                              Red Tracton's
                                                              550 Via De La Valle, Solana Beach, CA 92075

                                                        2. re: pine time

                                                          It is just a Hungry Hunter (Hunter Steakhouse) in disguise. Serviceable but far from destination dining. Drive down to Cowboy Star. Those guys are remarkably consistent and there are several non-steak options which are outstanding. Plus the Bison is A plus.

                                                          Hungry Hunter
                                                          11940 Bernardo Plaza Dr, San Diego, CA 92128