Donovan’s Modern American Meatery, which opened in Riverview a few months ago, is a hidden gem. It may be off the usual foodie path, but it’s definitely worth the trip
In fact, with its rustic ambience, amazing food, great outdoor seating and reasonable prices, it’s more reminiscent of a restaurant you might find in Boston or Chicago than one in the Tampa ’burbs.T
On a cool evening, a fire pit with a comfy circular seating arrangement set a warm, welcoming mood at the front entrance. The brick fireplace next to our patio table added to the inviting ambience.
Beverage Director Dean Hurst (arguably the Bay area’s top mixologist) greeted us at our table to discuss the wine menu and cocktail selections. I enjoyed hearing the philosophy behind the wines he chose and his vision for their list moving forward. For oenophiles, Dean has put together several yummy wines by the glass, but more impressive are the wines by the bottle on the regular list and the Reserve Wine list. A wine lover will not be disappointed. I chose a glass of Blue Rock “Baby Blue” blend from Sonoma County, but cocktail fans have options, too, including such tempting choices as an Apple Cider Old-Fashioned, Queen of Hearts and Buck Wild.
I was delighted when Donovan’s signature appetizer, the edible tallow candle, appeared at our table. Burning like a regular candle, it’s made of oil and butter and topped with rosemary and other herbs. As it melts onto the plate, it becomes a heavenly sauce that’s perfect for dipping the grilled toast pieces served with it. I’m not normally a bread person, but I had to try this unique starter.
Given that the restaurant has “meatery” in its name, steaks are to be expected. But the selection was even better than I’d hoped, including a tomahawk ribeye, lacquered Delmonico, American Wagyu New York strip and the flat iron house steak.
Plus, the offerings in the “Composed” section of the menu — such as frenched lamp chops, elk, wild game, and seared duck breast & confit leg — bring it to another level.
All of the starters and classic sides sounded enticing. We ordered two as appetizers. The flame grilled artichoke, topped with parmesan, citrus aioli, a buttery sauce and lemon zest, was yummy, and the cauliflower Alfredo with parmesan was amazing. The sauce is so good!
For my entrée I ordered the prime rib with rosemary and grilled vegetables, which was cooked perfectly. My friend Randy ordered the sea bass special, which arrived as a big portion with sweet potatoes, grilled tomatoes and scallions.
The biggest surprise of our dinner were the sides. We added sauteed baby Bellas cooked in bourbon with onions and a buttery sauce, complementing my prime rib perfectly. The grilled asparagus was crispy and tasty, and the truffle mac & cheese was the best I have tasted.
As we made our way through sampling these plates of food, Dean returned and recommended the Hanzell ‘Sebella’ Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2018. It had an intense fruity taste with depth and character that was perfect with our meal.
Sipping my wine and taking in the atmosphere, I watched people pour into the restaurant. Happy to have an upscale eatery in Riverview, they filled up the outdoor tables and secured stools at the bar. The Datz Restaurant Group has created a fun place with music, a warm rustic feel, an intriguing menu and an energy that will keep me coming back.
I totally recommend this restaurant, even if the drive is a little farther than your normal favorite location. It is definitely worth the drive!
11206 Sullivan St., Riverview, donovansmeatery.com.