Little Donkey’s cocktails set it apart

I wrote earlier this week about my past longing for a neighborhood restaurant and bar to hang out in. Ore has filled that need for my side of town, but there are treasures throughout the city. And in recent months, Little Donkey has proved itself as a Homewood hot spot.

My Birmingham Restaurant Week visit marked my third meal at the upscale-casual Mexican restaurant, but it was my first dinner. I had eyed the cocktail menu on previous visits, and my dining companion and I were on a mission to find the city’s best margaritas.

We’re early in our search (this was stop No. 2), but so far Little Donkey leads the pack. My margarita packed in all the flavor and tartness I seek, and since it was sweetened with agave instead of a sugary mix, the finish was clean rather than the super-sweet after taste I hate. My companion ordered a Paloma, which resembles a margarita but features grapefruit juice and a splash of soda water. He enjoyed it but preferred my margarita; the Paloma may be a better choice for someone who wants a lighter-tasting version of a margarita.

The BRW-menu appetizer was a tamal of the day, which featured pork on the day of our visit. The waiter said this was his favorite, and I can understand why. It was delicious and flavorful, a perfect tease for what was to come.

When dinner arrived, we were both impressed by the chef’s ability to balance the spices’ heat (which I’m overly sensitive to) with flavor. And the portions were generous; the wood-oven braised green chicken and rice is really about half a chicken per person, which meant I had plenty leftover for lunch the next day.

Casa Cosmo

Donkey’s Daddy

We wrapped up the meal with two more tasty cocktails: a Casa Cosmo, which the menu describes as adding “A Mexican touch to Toby Cecchini’s original Cosmopolitan as served at NYC’s Odeon cafe in the late ’80s,” which certainly exceeded a traditional Cosmo, in my opinion; and a Donkey’s Daddy, which may have been the best drink of the night. That concoction combines bourbon, tequila, house-made hibiscus syrup and lime juice. Each ingredient belongs on my list of favorite things to drink (I have hibiscus tea at home all the time!), and we both loved it. Little Donkey impressed me on many fronts during this visit, and I’ll definitely be sure my next meal includes happy hour.

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