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When searching for a third location for the Southern-inspired Mexican restaurant Little Donkey, operating partner Josh Gentry considered more than 15 potential spots, from Atlanta to Denver. He landed in Germantown.
“We consider Little Donkey to be more than just a Mexican restaurant,” Gentry says. “It’s a neighborhood bar and grill, and this is a neighborhood we definitely wanted to be a part of.”
A Fresh Hospitality concept, the fast-casual eatery sits in the same building as Cochon Butcher and Juice Bar, completing a triumvirate of welcoming dining establishments in Germantown. Like its neighbors, Little Donkey has a layout that’s spacious and airy, with a large patio out front. The decor is rustic and unfussy, and the open kitchen offers a peek at the preparation of its scratch-made menu—they even grind the corn for their authentic tortillas.
Gentry worked at another Fresh property, Jim ’n’ Nick’s, for 11 years before opening the first Little Donkey in Birmingham in 2012. (The second property recently debuted in Morgantown, West Virginia.)
“We try to apply the way we cook there to the Mexican palate,” he explains. “I believe that smoked pork is much more tender and flavorful than stewed carnitas, so that’s what we use at Little Donkey. And pinto beans are a very Mexican ingredient, but they’re a part of the Southern table, too.”
There are also fried catfish tacos that deliver just the right amount of crunch to contrast the tart pickled cabbage that tops the fillets. And Little Donkey’s fried chicken, available as either a quarter- or half-bird platter, benefits from an overnight soak in a chili-laden brine before being dropped in the fryer. The result is remarkably crispy.
The rest of the menu is divided into dips, soups and salads, small plates, street food, and a cluster of “burros, bowls, dillas, and sandwiches.” Popular starters include chicken tortilla soup and a green salad with goat cheese and toasted almonds. Tacos dominate the lineup with savory options like traditional pork pastor with grilled pineapple or the adobada, which is pork shoulder stewed in guajillo and arbol chiles and topped with crema and fresh onions. A vegetarian taco features seasonal vegetables and toasted pumpkin seeds for a punch of earthiness and texture. Little Donkey also offers daily specials ranging from Tuesday’s smoked pork belly taco to a wood-oven-seared and hickory-smoked prime rib on Fridays.
The bar program revolves primarily around whiskey and tequila—there are several great margaritas, including the clever Tequila Mockingbird that dresses up El Jimador with pineapple, cardamom, agave nectar, fresh lime juice, and a touch of serrano pepper.
Little Donkey has quickly become a welcome addition to Germantown. For a twist on classic Mexican cuisine made with down-home Southern smokehouse soul, stop in and see what the neighbors are buzzing about.
1120 4th Ave. N., Ste. 103, 615-567-5886; thelittledonkey.com