Mexican Food Gets a Southern Twist at Little Donkey


By Jan Walsh, Photography by Beau Gustafson

 

So, what’s with the name? In Spanish, burrito means “little donkey.” And at Little Donkey, you will find burritos and much more. This Mexican restaurant with Southern influences sources much of its meat and produce locally. And everything is made from scratch.

 

The Place

Little Donkey is located in the heart of Homewood on Central Avenue. Outside there is a large, covered patio that invites you to order a margarita and linger. Inside Little Donkey’s casual ambience is a rough-hewn mix of Mexican and Southern. The coolness of the stainless open kitchen and colorful Mexican tiles contrast with the warmth of wooden tables and chairs, with rust-colored leather booths. The synthesis results in a hip, off-beat attitude that says, “Chill out” in Spanish—with a Southern drawl. The eatery is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday.

 

The People 

Little Donkey is owned by Fresh Hospitality Group, which owns other restaurant concepts in the Birmingham area and beyond. Joshua Gentry serves as chef and operating partner. And the service staff is friendly and knowledgeable of the menu items and provides prompt and professional service.

 

Favorite Fare

Today I am lunching with a dear friend and colleague, B-Metro’s Robin Colter. We start with her recommendation—from past visits here—of a popular Mexican cocktail, Palomas. This is a tasty, on-the-rocks mix of fresh grapefruit juice, fresh lime juice, 100 percent agave tequila and agave nectar, finished with soda water in salt-rimmed low balls. If the tastiness of today’s soup of the day is any indication of tomorrow’s concoction, then I highly recommend the soup here. Today’s Chicken Tortilla is deep and rich in flavor, rather than spice.

I notice the Veggie Burrito one the menu and order it as an entrée. But when it arrives, it has mushrooms (I’m allergic and they were not mentioned on the menu.) The kitchen quickly apologizes and takes a new entrée order—Shrimp Tostada—and sends a surprise from the kitchen—Queso Fundido—to boot. Three homemade, fresh-pressed corn tortillas accompany a small cast iron pot of hot, melted cheeses over smoked sausage, roasted poblano peppers, and onions. This interactive and divine dish is found in the tacos section of the menu. The Shrimp Tostada is grounded with a crisp tostada topped with mix of Gulf Shrimp, grilled corn, poblanos, onions, habaneros, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, and pineapple. It is lovely mix of colors, textures, and flavors and is both very spicy and lightly refreshing.

Robin’s Pambazo entrée is adventurous in presentation and complexity. It is a sandwich on a house-made bun that was dredged in guajillo and toasted on the griddle. Inside seared chorizo, potatoes, queso fresco, and romaine lettuce are drizzled with crema. She made a wise choice with her scrumptious side of La Concoccion. It is also served in a cast iron crock with a soft poached egg atop a mixture of rice, black beans, cotija cheese, scallions, and
smoked habanero sauce. If you want a taste of the entire menu, this is as close as you will get in one dish.

For dessert we split the Churros. Sticks of yummy fried pastry—rolled in cinnamon and sugar—arrive surrounding a dipping bowl of a decadent, morita-spiked chocolate.

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