Thursday, June 7, 2012

Branford Restaurant Week 2012 - Donovan's Reef

This is the third of a multi-part-series on Branford Restaurant Week

Today the cowboy wanted to select the participating restaurant, and he chose Donovan's Reef in the historic Lockworks area in Branford center.

The Branford Locksworks building area was a booming factory in the late 1800s, one of the businesses brought to Branford with railroad construction, along with Malleable Iron Fittings (MIF) and Atlantic Wire (where my dad worked in the late 1950s to early 60s). The Locksworks area retains the charm of the architecture of the time with the original factory brickwork still apparent both inside and out.  And the cowboy is just a big ole' romantic at heart, because Donovan's Reef (called the Coral Reef at the time) was where we went on our first date, which is why he later explained that he chose it.  (A collective "awwww" please!)  It will be 21 years this September since that first date!

On our arrival we were quickly seated and then welcomed by Debbie, our waitress.  We pondered over both the main house menu and Donovan's Reef Restaurant Week Menu for a bit. The cowboy decided he wanted to order off the menu.  He chose the crock of Liz's Chili:
 It was meaty with tiny bits of fresh peppers and covered with a blend of cheddar cheeses.  Just enough heat to warm you but not smokin' hot! Shame on me for not finding out who Liz is and why this chili is named for her!

As if you didn't know by now, I'm staying with my restaurant week selections (!!) and chose the Baby Green Salad: with crumbled bleu cheese, sliced pears, glazed pecans and crumbled Gorgonzola, topped with a light white balsamic vinaigrette.

The menu didn't list them, but my favorite craisans are in here too!

Next was our main course, and the cowboy went with the Old Faithful, an 8 oz. burger served with lettuce and tomatoes.  For a mere 50cents each you can add bacon, sauteed mushrooms, onions, peppers, or choice of cheese (Cheddar, American, Swiss).  You know it!  He paired up the Old Faithful Burger with American Cheese and a perfect slice of red onion! 

Look at that cheeseburger!  It's a work of art!  Debbie explained that the grilled egg dough buns were a new addition to the burgers, and it topped the burger off, just right.  

I chose the Sauteed Shrimp: With artichokes, peas, grape tomatoes, and kalamata olives in a lemon and garlic sauce tossed with rigatoni pasta.
Folks, even though this is listed as a garlic sauce, it was very light and not overpowering like some garlic sauces can be.  I even had to ask for a spoon so I could enjoy it on its own!  The sweet young peas and grape tomatoes contrasted nicely with the tartness of the artichokes and olives.  
Here's a close up of the party on my fork!

Debbie brought over my dessert course, Arborio Rice Pudding served in this beautiful martini class and topped with heaping of whipped cream.  

Arborio rice is also used when making risotto and is named for the town of Arborio in the Po Valley in Italy by the western Alps. 

Donovan's Reef is one of those places you want to go back to again and again!  Debbie, our waitress, when asked about what she loves best about working at Donovan's replied without hesitation, "our customers!"  She's been at Donovan's Reef for the past seven years and is one of those real People Persons.  She couldn't say enough wonderful things about working at Donovan's, and about the owner Greg, who we then learned was the original owner of Coral Reef back when we went there on our first date in 1991!

Here's a tour of Donovan's Reef and some of the beautiful details of the building:
The front entrance

The dining room

the bar

plenty of comfortable seating in the lounge

the upstairs loft bar and lounge area.  Great for a private party!

Our thanks to Greg, Debbie, and the entire Reef staff for a great lunch and even better memories!

Visit Donovan's Reef and tell them Home Place sent you!

Donovan's Reef Restaurant
1212 Main Street,
Branford, CT 06405
Tel: (203) 488-5573

Are you enjoying Branford Restaurant Week?  Have you been to Donovan's Reef? 
Where did you go on your first date?  

Donovan's Reef on Urbanspoon


  1. You wanted to know why the chili was named Liz...that's because Liz bozzi makes the chili and the soups. Her son Greg owns the reastaurant. If you ever want to meet her, go to Donovan's at 5:30 PM on Friday. amongst other things, she serves as the "Hoastess" that night. She will greet you and take you to your table. She is a sweetheart!

    1. Fred, thanks for the info! Liz makes a great chili and the cowboy is already asking to go back again so he can get some more. We'll have to be sure to go to Donovan's Reef on a Friday when she's there!


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