Donovan’s American Meatery is Tampa Bay’s next great steakhouse

Inside a gourmet steakhouse

Donovan’s American Meatery is a brand new steakhouse from the minds behind Datz, and it might be the next big thing in the Tampa Bay region. Yes, in a city famed for steaks, this new hub in Riverview is so worth the trip.

Three months ago, Chef Jasper Lee and Datz Group soft-opened their newest restaurant concept, Donovan’s Modern American Meatery, on Riverview’s Sullivan Street. A trendy, contemporary steakhouse, Donovan’s is serving up smokey meats, rich sides, and “cuts like butter” seafood—all cooked over fresh cut white oak timber. Last night, I stopped in for a tour (and a taste) of what this newcomer is all about.

Smokey meats and exquisite seafood at Donovan’s

“It’s about as primitive as it gets,” Chef Lee shared as he guided me through towering shelves of firewood. Embers blew softly beneath his Texas-imported grill, “We’re really cooking from nature.”

I glanced around at the oak, letting the nostalgic scent of burning timber transport me back to my summer camp days. “What about your vegetables and flatbread dough?” I prompted, “Those go over the fire, too?”

“Yes ma’am,” Chef Lee responded, pride behind his eyes, “Everything.”

Damn, I thought. All I can roast over a fire is a weenie on a stick. And I’m pretty sure those are already cooked.

Intrigued, my plus-one (who, for this tasting, happened to be my mom) and I perused the lengthy menu. There were probably about 25 items that caught our interest, but luckily we had an awesome waiter, Elijah, who pointed us towards the Chef’s best. So, if you’re also an indecisive human vacuum, make sure to ask for Elijah.

But if he’s not there, don’t worry, because I’m about to give you the complete rundown on Donovan’s tastiest necessities.

Char-Grilled Burrata Toast

Ok, so the first thing to address here is that every dish at Donovan’s reminds you that you’ve entered a “meatery”—even if there’s no literal meat on the plate. This burrata, which is served over warm-baked bread and olive tapenade, is a key example of Chef Lee subtly nudging that classic, barbecue taste into our subconscious.

Before plating, the bread is flash-fired over those white oak flames, which gives the dish a smokey, char-grilled crunch. Top that with cool, melty mozzarella and this shared plate makes a great precursor for the meat feast to come.

Edible Tallow Candle

The most ordered, and most innovative, appetizer on the menu, the edible tallow candle is essentially Donovan’s take on the classic bread and butter plate.
The “butter,” aka the “candle,” is rendered from beef fat rather than traditional cow’s dairy, and is delicious. Loaded with savory steak undertones—and lit to melt at your table—the spread is a rich, carnivorous twist on a restaurant staple.

Charbroiled Oysters

Now, I’ve eaten a lot of food, so I don’t say this lightly: this dish is special. Like, a truly memorable type of special that’ll have you “When Harry Met Sally”-ing on the first bite. And every bite after that.

Panko-crusted in herb butter and parmesan, this showstopper was one of Elijah’s recommendations, and henceforth why we love him (amongst other reasons). With oysters as tender as a poached egg, each bite will literally melt in your mouth, leaving you wondering how you ever ate shellfish any other way.

Filet Mignon

Ahh, the filet—the piece de resistance of any good steakhouse. Donovan’s juicy version of this meat delicacy is soft, simply seasoned, and best eaten with one of their six “enhancement” sauces. Featured above is my favorite, the cognac peppercorn, which elevates the flavor profile of the steak through an added touch of richness.

Brown Sugar and Bourbon Salmon

Now, let me tell you something: my mother is not a salmon person. Never was, she had always claimed, and never will be. But then she called this her favorite dish of the night…so maybe she was lying? Or perhaps the sticky sweet bourbon glaze against the smokey, fall-apart fish was just enough to finally get her on the bandwagon?

Either way, I owe Donovan’s a big one, because I can finally put salmon on the Publix list.

Truffle Mac and Cheese

Black truffle oil, cremini mushroom, cheese blend, and garlic make up this ridiculous bad boy. If that recipe alone isn’t enough to make you want to wolf down this dish, maybe I should add that it was on every single table I passed last night.

So, you should probably order it.

Peanut Butter Pie

I don’t know if it was the luxurious peanut butter mousse, half-inch thick Oreo crust, or shower of Heath bar crumbles, but I think this is my favorite thing on the planet. It was almost like a girl-scout cookie met an icebox cake and had a baby in a trick-or-treat sack. If that sounds like your jam, order two—it’ll taste even better during tomorrow’s Zoom meetings.

With a handful of the Bay’s best restaurants already under their belt, it’s no surprise that Datz Restaurant Group has turned out another winner. Between the cozy atmosphere, inviting staff, and hearty food, Donovan’s Modern American Meatery is sure to become your next go-to family spot.

Make a reservation online, or by calling (813) 295-8445.

Kara VanDooijeweert is a current journalism student at Rutgers University. If you can't find her in the Bay's best restaurants, she's probably off exploring the wilderness. Catch her on instagram, @karanicolev.