I’ve been debating about exactly how to approach this post. I think it makes the most sense to be straightforward, so here goes. Little Donkey has been open for about a year and was much anticipated. Owned by the same people who own Jim N Nicks. It is in a really cool space in Homewood, in the small strip mall where Octane and Steel City Pops moved (after Little Donkey). It is very modern on the outside and inside, with a beautiful patio:
A lot of people ate here when it first opened, us included. We actually ate here on its second night open, with hopes of blogging about it. Let’s just say that both the food and service were not ready for prime time. Lots of bad Urbanspoon reviews ensued. We tried again 2 months later, still not ready. It can be hard to bounce back from that kind of thing. That’s why I’ve named this post Little Donkey, version 2.0.
I’m not exactly sure how they accomplished the changes, but I’ve been back 3 times in the past month and have held off on blogging about it until I felt certain of what I’m about to say: Little Donkey is solid, and brings something new and refreshing to the Birmingham food scene.
During each of those 3 recent trips to Little Donkey, the service was extremely attentive. Chips/salsa and beverages were replaced before we even realized it was warranted, and we were checked on several times throughout the meal. Service was also pleasant, upbeat, and friendly. This was also despite a huge crowd and line out the door during 2 of the 3 trips.
Now, for the food. Since it is owned by Jim N Nicks owners, there is a high expectation for the meat. If you want meat, here’s some meat. Vegetarians, hide your eyes:
Halfway through the meal two employees could be seen running across the parking lot with that giant skewer of meat, presumably to bring it into the kitchen. If I had been quicker with my camera I would have taken a picture…. alas.
The chips and salsa are among the few in the city that I really think are calorie worthy. I have tried but just can’t figure out what they put in them to make them taste so good. The salsa is mild to medium and has a great flavor.
We had the pork and fish tacos, which were amazing. They are served in the Mexican street food style with corn tortillas. I love their homemade corn tortillas and could just eat them on their own all day. The fish tacos can be either grilled or fried. These were fried and delicious, but I prefer them grilled (no particular reason-had them that way last time-out of this world). We chose the “Concoccion” as our side-basically rice, beans, and yes-that IS what you are seeing-an egg, baked in cast iron.
Never had something quite like that before although it reminds me a little of dol sot bim bim bap. Very unique in a good way.
Naturally, after seeing all that smoked meat and being carnivores, we wanted more pig. So, we got the drunken hog sandwich, which is pork served with cheese and guacamole on homemade bread (according to their FB page). We were not disappointed. I’m realizing now that we were probably supposed to do something with that tomato sauce…. At the time we just figured it was more salsa and ignored it… Oops! Next time. We chose the street corn as our second side, which was smothered in cheese and was eaten quickly.
How about a close up on that sandwich?
Finally, the tamale. Homemade, soft, lots of flavor. We got the pork:
This place often gets compared to El Barrio, which I also love and I’m sure I will blog about at some point. The genres are the same — upscale Mexican, and both are pretty affordable. I don’t know that I’ve been to both enough times to truly compare, but I’ll try. The menus are different- El Barrio has some unique specials (Wednesday night Carnitas night aaaah) and big plates, while Little Donkey has unique sandwiches and sides. Both have a nice bar, Little Donkey seems to be slightly more kid friendly. But, it seems to me that there is definitely room in this world (and in Bham) for at least 2 restaurants of this genre. Both seem packed all the time.
Another advantage to Little Donkey is that it is 2 doors down from Steel City pops… see our next post!
To sum it up, restaurants, like people, can change. This is one of my new favorite places. I’m so glad I gave it a second chance.