Photo by Lexi Coon.
Homewood restaurant Little Donkey, pictured here, will soon be expanding to the Highway 280 corridor.
After almost five years of success at its Homewood location, Little Donkey is opening a second restaurant in Birmingham, this one on the U.S. 280 corridor. This will be its fourth location, with the other two in Nashville, Tennessee, and Morgantown, West Virginia.
The newest location will be in the former Verizon store near Alabama 119, in the shopping center with Big Bad Breakfast. Both restaurants are owned by Fresh Hospitality Group, and chef and managing partner Joshua Gentry is looking forward to expanding their brand to Shelby County, describing the location as “wonderful.”
“Some of us live in that part of town, and what we really looked at is we have people that drive to Homewood to come eat,” Gentry said. “Let’s make it easier on them. It’s a great way for us to grow.”
He said the other motivation for growing in this area is that they have a great staff, and they don’t want to lose them.
“We have a couple of managers and kids that want to be managers,” he said. “If we don’t give them an opportunity, we lose them. We will blend our staff to keep a balance of talent.”
They will run a staff of 45 full time and a management team of four. Since the locations are within close proximity, new hires may be able to get some training at the Homewood location.
The U.S. 280 location will have a similar look to the one in Homewood. Its size will be about 700 square feet smaller. There will be 142 seats, including a patio. Gentry said space will be lost in the kitchen instead of the dining room. The look will have most of the same features as Homewood, but different elements. It will feature the same wood drop ceiling, exposed vents and wood-paneled wall.
The restaurant serves Mexican food with a Southern influence, and both restaurants will have the same menu. Gentry said he and his partner, Nick Pihakis of Jim ’N Nick’s Community Bar-B-Q, took the way they cook their meats and Southern food and applied it to the Mexican palate.
“If I go to my grandmother’s house, pinto beans are on the table,” Gentry said. “If you eat a tamale, it smells and tastes like cornbread. We saw a real natural connection with palates and things we eat. If you let a Southerner cook Mexican food, this is what it would look like.”
Some of Little Donkey’s most popular dishes include fried chicken, tamales and tacos. Its menu also features appetizers, burritos, salads and entrées including pork, chicken, beef and steak. Sides include black beans, pinto beans, rice, chipotle slaw, fruit, street-style corn and potatoes. The featured dessert is churros, a fried pastry rolled in cinnamon and sugar with chocolate for dipping. The restaurant also will feature a full bar.
Gentry said he is waiting on the city to give approval before construction can begin, which he hopes is any day now.
“My end is restaurants and operations; the city has been a ton of help and made the process go a lot faster because of my partners,” he said.
Once construction begins, it will take about 70 days for the build-out. Gentry will start the hiring process about 30 days before they plan to open.