Restaurant Review! Donna Jean in San Diego!

June 6, 2018   /   byrunningwhilevegan  / Categories :  Food, Review, Running, Travel

Mike and I got back from San Diego a couple hours ago from Rock’n Roll SD, and I’m still feeling the glow and excitement of our visit. We got on the road to SD yesterday afternoon for a whirlwind 18 hours of eating, sleeping and running a half marathon!

While there are so many delicious restaurants to choose from in San Diego, the one that has 100% of my heart and my ever-lasting loyalty is Donna Jean in Bankers Hill/Balboa Park. I used to work under Chef Roy Elam, the owner and chef, at a restaurant called SunCafe in Studio City. His talents and palate are impeccable, creative and fresh, with influences from the Southern Mid-West, California, and the Middle East. I am absolutely elated that his own restaurant is doing phenomenally; so much so, he’s opening a second location in Sherman Oaks! It’s obvious from the food, the vibe, the building, and the staff that 100,000,000% heart has gone into the place.

Last year, Mike and I ate at Donna Jean the night before I ran RnR SD. I know the way post-race afternoons go (beers, fatigue, bed), if we wanted to make it this year, we’d have to go the night before. It was the only restaurant I was dead-set on. I made us a reservation for Saturday night, 7:30pm. We came from our hotel, in Hotel Circle, with no traffic and easily found street parking. As soon as we walked in, we saw our LA friend Elana, AND it just so happened we had the table next to hers. Small, vegan world!

I honestly didn’t know how the food could get any better. This year however, everything was even more refined! Chef Roy has outdone himself yet again. Everything is so elegantly rustic, like fine dining with a friendly, unpretentious feel. There’s twinkly lights, greenery, art, and everyone looks really happy to be there! All right, enough reading, let’s get to the pictures!

Tortellini Soup with house-made pasta, a lemony-garlic broth, with super fresh cherry tomatoes and dill! Served with house-made bread. This soup is almost (in my opinion, fully) out of the testing phase, so it was a real treat to be able to try it! One of the best parts of having a chef friend, besides the person themselves, is trying their new creations! We loved it.

I think Chef Roy’s signature dish has to be these Nashville Hot Shrooms ($10.00)! They are perfectly breaded and fried oyster mushrooms with house-made hot sauce, pickles, and sourdough bread! They are so phenom, I’m obsessed!

Oftentimes when Mike I and I go out to eat, he trusts me to order what I think looks best on the menu. This is mostly due to my restaurant experience and deciphering menu descriptions. I also know his tastes really well! Last year I had a feeling he would love the Salisbury Tempeh ($16.00) with mashed potatoes, grilled onions and greens, red eye gravy and greens. Mike absolutely LOVED IT! It really is so delicious and meaty! As soon as the plate was set on our table, the memories came flooding back, and he licked the plate clean.

Next up, we ordered a pizza! Pizza wasn’t on the menu last year, and we’d been hearing such great things, we knew we had to try one! I ordered the Thunderkiss ’65 ($17.00) with house-made mozzarella and ricotta, white wine garlic cream sauce, spinach, pistachios, preserved lemon vinegar, and bourbon smoked black pepper. It was so rich and dreamy! I am such a big fan of tomato-based sauces and cheese, that I can’t wait to try the ‘Rita next time!

We were stuffed, but I knew we had to try dessert! I used to be the pastry chef at SunCafe, under Roy, which our waitress excitedly mentioned, and made me feel so complimented. Working under Roy, we collaborated on a lot of seasonal Southern desserts. Roy heaped praise upon his sous chef, Tony, and was amped about the dessert Tony created that I had my eye on, the Creme Brulee ($8.00).  I ADORE caramel, espresso, and whip cream! Plus the oat tuile was awesome. I miss it, I miss the whole dinner writing this, they are such a great team!

I never drink when I go to Donna Jean, because of RnR SD, which is a race I’m constantly trying to PR at. I know the beer and wine menus are carefully crafted and cultivated, so its kind of a bummer I haven’t tried them. However, I always get the flavorful kombucha varieties with my meal, so I hardly feel as though I’m missing out!

You gotta go! You gotta get down to San Diego or, to the new location in Sherman Oaks when it opens! You don’t just have to take my word for it either, here are a few more blogs singing Donna Jean by Chef Roy’s praises!

Klean Slate (aka, Elana, our table neighbor)
The Spooky Vegan
Vegan In San Diego
San Diego Reader
Rock My Vegan Socks

Roy gave us a fresh radish from the Donna Jean patio garden!

Donna Jean is located at 2949 Fifth Ave, San Diego, 92103. You can reach them by phone at 619 299 5500.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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