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Donkey Taqueria serves affordable plates, needs some heat

The food at Donkey may have needed a bit of spice, but the open aired seating area provided a refreshing summer setting.
The interior of Donkey

The interior of Donkey /Scott Trumbo

The geometric themed menu

The geometric themed menu /Scott Trumbo

The food has a very great aesthetic flare

The food has a very great aesthetic flare /Scott Trumbo

Donkey Taqueria, in a small building at the corner of Wealthy and Henry, occupies what used to be a service station in the 1920's.

The menu is divided into appetizers, tacos, tostadas and other small plates. The menu offers enough options to satisfy a variety of palates. There were some vegetarian options and a fair balance of white and red meats. The largest part of the menu is the offering of a large amount of tequila based drinks, wine and other speciality cocktails.

Items are priced and served as "small plates," much like tapas style meals, meaning that you would need two to three plates to have a full meal. The prices for menu items were all under 10 dollars, so the average visit would cost about $15-20 dollars per person.

Donkey is a smaller restaurant, with most of their seating outside. Walking in, it is apparent that the bar will be heavily featured on the menu, and they have plenty of options to offer.

Every table comes with three hot sauces of varying degrees of heat. Each sauce had a wildly different taste, which would be perfect for adding just the right complimentary blend to any plate. Those with an adversity to spicy food can rest assured that there would be a well balanced sauce for them to enjoy. 

I decided to make use of their full bar and have a margarita. The drinks was simply listed as, fresh lime, salt, triple sec, simple syrup and of course tequila. The first sip of margarita tasted like nothing but lime. The second sip proved no better, but I decided to add a few drops of hot sauce to try to temper the leading lime and tequila flavors. On its own, the margarita had way too much of a punishing sour taste, which should have been cut back from the use of the syrup and triple sec. Luckily, the small infusion of hot sauce I daringly threw in there gave my palette some other flavor value to focus on.

The chips and guacamole, which could have served as an entire meal, arrived shortly after as my appetizer. The guacamole had nice chunks of avocado, and had that rich cool taste that should be expected of guacamole. I liked that there was a generous enough portion that I could add it to my other plates if I so wanted.   

Not long after being served the appetizer, the entirety of my entrée was delivered to the table. I personally prefer a more staggered meal service where I can enjoy each course without having to feel rushed. It was then that I realized that the serving staff there seemed more like the opposing clique in the high school cafeteria. I received the occasional glance from the server, but once my water glass was dry, it stayed dry. I felt as if I was welcomed to stay, but that it was one of those shallow welcomes that you would tactfully try to offer extended family.

I ordered a taco de pescado (fish taco), taco al pastor (pork taco), a tostada de pollo (an open-face fried tortilla) and a side of vegetable en escabeche.

The fish taco was by far my favorite. It was the only item that did not need to be supplemented by the use of some form of hot sauce. The taco was a battered whitefish topped with a salsa tartara, cabbage, red onion and cilantro. The fish had a perfectly golden fried texture, and the combination of the onion gave it a jolting sensation that was quite appreciated. 

The next taco that came was the roasted pork shoulder with grilled pineapple, onions and cilantro. The meat was almost too tender and aside from the pineapple did not offer that depth of flavor that I was expecting. There was no heat. I know there were at least three hot sauce options in front of me, but it seemed like a reasonable thing to expect.

The last thing to be consumed was the large tostada de pollo. The menu listed it as a roasted chicken thigh with salsa negra, black bean crema, queso cotija, fried onions and of course cilantro. The first bite of the tostada was not crunchy, and when mixed with the chicken offered no complimenting textures. Everything was all mush. I thought the menu description sounded nice, but fell short of my expectations. The saving grace of this plate was the fried onions which gave it that much needed crunch factor. 

The seasonal pickled veggies, which had carrots, cauliflower, green beans and topped with a ring of onion, were a great contrast to the very savory flavors from the entrees. I particularly love those bitter kind of notes that really helped the meal stand out.

Overall the food at Donkey needed to be amped up, which could be done by voluntarily adding the proper hot sauce. I just wish that the kitchen had provided a little bit more of a textural contrast in the main course. All of the food seemed to have the same mushy kind of feeling, except for the fish tacos.

I would recommend Donkey if it was just a quick meet up with friends, or for a few happy hour drinks after work. In all honesty, every aspect of Donkey Taqueria seemed very hip, but after peeling back the surface it seems like a hollow suggestion of what Donkey could be.

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