Donovan’s Dishes What
The Competition Can’t
By Steve Tripp
In my nearly 30 years here in the Valley O’ the Sun, it has never ceased to amaze me how the resort community conveniently forgets to accommodate those of us who don’t flee like snowbirds in April when the temps start climbing. After all, it has been decades since the posh palaces closed in the hotter months and I have to believe that it is us – the diligent desert dwellers – who help keep their staffs serving and their doors open. Year-round. Through good times and bad. ‘Till death by heat do us part. So imagine my chagrin recently when trying to get a reservation (even I am not naïve enough to think that you don’t need one this time of year) at an unnamed, award-winning resort on the Phoenix-Scottsdale border for a recent Saturday night. The resort’s central restaurant reservationist practically chirped with pride that they were booked solid for the entire weekend. – Friday, Saturday and Sunday, OH, UNLESS I WAS A GUEST AT THE RESORT. Was not. Will not be. And, just for grins, check back with me the third week in August to see where I will be dining. It won’t be at the base of Camelback Mountain.
So with Phoenix’s finest unable to accommodate me, I turned to a newcomer just down the road who did just what I was hoping for them to do. Accommodate me, feed me, treat me well and make me feel good about the fact that I have chosen to spend my money at their establishment. While you’re at it, make me feel special. They did. Welcome to Donovan’s – a newish eatery that has transformed the former Harris’ hacienda west of 32 nd Street on Camelback to a clubby, mahogany-clad steakhouse that mimics the quality, service and ambiance that suggest Capital Grille, Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris. Big difference, though. Donovan doesn’t serve his steaks naked – rather, instead, our entrees were blessed by savory piles of mashed and baked spuds, along with fresh carrots and greens.
Accommodating appears to be a specialty at Donovan’s, a place that looks like a chain but only has one sister property in La Jolla. Wear black? They replace the white linens with black to protect you from the white lint kittys. Wine doesn’t suit? No problemo. Eduardo will summon the sommelier to select a more suitable vintage. In his words, “Life is too short to question the wine.” Table too close to the door” How is this one” We aim to please…even if you happen to live here. Novel, to say the least.
Bottom line? Bacon-wrapped scallop appetizers were the size of a baby’s fist and were sweet, succulent and rich to the point that I could have turned them into an entrée ($11). Caesar salad was tasty but ordinary with typical dried parmesan vs. shaved ($7 shared). Trio of filet mignons with bleu cheese, garlic smashed 'tatoes, caramelized onions and asparagus was tender, mouthwatering and enough to make a carnivore out of the weakest ($40). Grilled salmon (at $25) was a good value and was moist and flaky, but could have benefited from a drizzle of something interesting to push it to magnificent. Key Lime pie (again shared at $7) was the most memorable this guy has ever sampled. Tack on free valet parking unless you accidentally turn into the former Barmouche parking lot at 32 nd Street and it’s a keep. Total damage with tip or wine, right at $125 for both of us.
Methinks Donovan’s has the chutzpah and the lack of a board of directors to do what a memorable restaurant does, ACCOMMODATE. Hmmm. I’ll probably be back. In April. And in August. When some of the local resorts wonder where the customers are.
Donovan’s Steak and Chop House
3101 E. Camelback Road
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