photo credit: Natalie Schaefer
Ferris Bueller doesn’t believe in “-isms.” Instead, he says, people should believe in themselves. It’s a catchy turn of phrase, so you don’t realize it’s completely empty until it’s way too late to change the quote in your middle school yearbook. And if Ferris were still around today (having inevitably fled Chicago for Boston after being sued by Abe Froman for identity theft), Little Donkey in Central Square would be his favorite restaurant. This is a place that doesn’t believe in “-isms” either - a place where you’ll find dishes from Iran, Mexico, Italy, Vietnam, and India on any given table, and it’s a lot of fun as a result.
If Ferris’s mid-shampoo monologue against both capitalism and communism means anything at all, it’s a roast on letting labels dictate how you live and operate. Little Donkey’s menu takes Ferris’s lesson to heart - you’ll find that it can’t be pinned to any specific region or cuisine, and instead includes everything from king crab nachos and truffle cacio e pepe, to vindaloo-braised short rib and a caviar sandwich. It doesn’t really matter what kind of restaurant Little Donkey is, just that it’s a big, lively spot filled with people letting loose and sharing a lot of food.
A big chunk of the space is taken up by the bar area, which is packed just about every night. The cocktails are great - and fun, especially if you order “the one in a grapefruit,” and it makes for a great place to get a little buzzed and have a couple of small plates before you head out to a show at the nearby Middle East or Cantab Lounge.
In fact, Little Donkey is best used as a bar first and a restaurant second. The wide variety of food can be a little overwhelming if you’re there for a full dinner, but for drinks and a few bites, it’s perfect. Particularly when you’re with that one friend who always says they want to mix things up but never actually does.
When you do head out for the night, you may still adhere to the tenants of capitalism or communism (more likely the latter, considering you’re in the heart of the People’s Republic). But you’ll at least see the virtues of breaking free from labels every now and again.
Don’t let the fact that you’ve had hummus roughly 1,347 times over the past four years deter you - with hot melted butter and charred onions, this is miles better than the stuff that’s in your fridge at home.
It’s got gooseberries on it, so there you go - gooseberries aren’t just a fictional food invented by the Brothers Grimm after all. That’s good news, because this is a solid plate to get you going.
This is a piece of cornbread topped with fish roe and a big hunk of maple butter. You’d think the maple would balance it out, but it turns out to be a bit of a salt-bomb, so stay away unless you want to spend the rest of the night stealing the water glasses off the next table.
The honey balances it out nicely, but like most foie gras, it’s so rich you need at least two other people to finish it.
Cacio e Pepe
It’s covered in a Blue Hill-sized mound of truffles, which don’t entirely steal the show from some great, thick noodles.
With foie gras, jalapeno chips, and onion soup mayo, the burger is trying to do a little too much and, unlike Oprah, not really pulling it off.
Spicy Thai Street Noodles
They’re not that spicy, so don’t expect anyone to be impressed if you finish them, but they’re still decent.
Roasted Bone Marrow
The bone marrow is made with a pig ear bordelaise sauce. If you’ve never had that before because you’re not a French farmer, know that it’s very, very rich. Take one spoonful and then move on.